The J. Paul Getty Museum


Object Details




Robert Mapplethorpe (American, 1946 - 1989)




New York, New York, United States (Place Created)




Gelatin silver print

Object Number:



35.4 × 35.4 cm (13 15/16 × 13 15/16 in.)


© Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Credit Line:

Jointly acquired by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, with funds provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust and the David Geffen Foundation

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Object Description

I don't want to leave too much to chance.
--Robert Mapplethorpe

The ruffled silhouette of this bouquet of tulips contrasts with the geometric shapes of black, white and grey around it. Mapplethorpe carefully arranges these elements so that a traditional subject, the floral still life, becomes, quite literally, edgy. The composition is disconcerting, as a viewer is uncertain how the vase can balance on the corner of the table, or how exactly the planes of the foreground and background are angled. The resulting image is at once lovely and vaguely unsettling.

Mapplethorpe's diverse body of work also included fashion, nudes, portraits, and erotic and sadomasochistic subjects, and is distinguished by an elegant, classical sensibility with an undercurrent of darker complexity.

Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium (March 15 to July 31, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 15 to July 31, 2016
Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium (September 10, 2016 to March 4, 2018)
  • Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montréal), September 10, 2016 to January 22, 2017
  • Kunsthal Rotterdam, April 22 to August 27, 2017
  • Art Gallery of New South Wales (Sydney), October 28, 2017 to March 4, 2018

Corcoran Gallery of Art. A Book of Photographs from the Collection of Sam Wagstaff. (New York: Gray Press, 1978), front cover ill.

Szarkowski, John. Mirrors and Windows: American Photography Since 1960 (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1978), p. 86.

Marshall, Richard. Robert Mapplethorpe, exh. cat. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with New York Graphic Society Books, 1988), p. 57 (variant).

Danto, Arthur C. Mapplethorpe (New York: Random House, 1992), pl. 91.

Celant, Germano. Mapplethorpe, exh. cat. (London: Hayward Gallery; Electa; SBC, 1992), p. 42. [incorrectly dated in caption as 1977].

Morrisroe, Patricia. Mapplethorpe: A Biography (New York: Random House, 1995), unpaginated (variant), ill. after p. 272.

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Pistils (New York: Random House, 1996), p. 55.

Celant, Germano. Robert Mapplethorpe: Tra antico e modern. Un'antologia, exh. cat. (Firenze: Artificio; Milano: Skira, 2005), p. 101.

Muschamp, Herbert. i Mapplethorpe: The Complete Flowers (Düsseldorf ; New York: teNeues, 2006), pl. 9.

Mapplethorpe, Robert. Mapplethorpe. Rev. ed. (Kempen, Germany; New York: teNeues, 2007), pl. 91.

Falletti, Franca and Jonathan Nelson, eds.Robert Mapplethorpe: Perfection in Form, exh. cat. (Kempen, Germany; New York: teNeues, 2009), p. 30, fig. 10 (variant); p. 136, pl. 39.