Dovima the Divine



“The clothes have a structured beauty;
the gloves are mandatory;
the necks are long.
Elegant men with
cigarettes between their fingers
occasionally enter the frame,
encountering women
who appear utterly indifferent
to their attention.”



Featured: Dorothy Virginia Margaret Juba,
later known as Dorothy Horan,
best known as Dovima.
A name she, herself, created:
“Do” for Dorothy,
“vi” for victory,
and “ma” for her ma.


“Dovima, New York,” 1954, reinterpreted in 1994.
Photo: From Lillian Bassman: Women(Abrams)




“She was the last

of the great elegant,

aristocratic beauties…

the most remarkable

and unconventional beauty of her time.”

~Richard Avedon




”I never thought of myself

as a beautiful woman.

As a child,

I was a gangly,

skinny thing and

I had this ugly front tooth

that I broke

when I was playing dress-up

in my mother’s clothes.”




Legend has it that Dovima was discovered while waiting for a friend outside of a Manhattan Automat, (life-changing encounters seemed to have happened with some regularity in those days). Reportedly, a woman approached Doe (a nickname affectionately conferred on her by family) on the street to ask if she had ever modeled. As fate and fortune would have it, the woman worked for Vogue and took her to the offices on the spot for some test shots.




From the chronicles of “overnight success,” the following day Dovima did a shoot with the legendary photographer Irving Penn. Insecure about her smile because of the broken front tooth, Dovima wisely kept her mouth closed which resulted in a kind of mysterious look reminiscent of the Mona Lisa. The series of shots propelled her onto fashion pages aross the country for the next decade. Thus, the highest paid model in the fashion world with a face that evoked the term “supermodel,” long before the term was coined, was launched.




“She was the super-sophisticated model

in a sophisticated time,

definitely not the girl next door.”

~Jerry Ford, Ford Models




“The ideal of beauty then

was the opposite of what it is now.

It stood for an extension

of the aristocratic view of women as ideals,

of women as dreams,

of women as almost surreal objects.

Dovima fit that in her proportions.”

~Richard Avedon




“I would just never appear

in public

without looking like Dovima,

who was to me an image of myself.”





She left modeling in 1962, at the age of 35, saying,

”I didn’t want to wait

until the camera turned cruel.”




~ by eaesthete on 09/23/09.

18 Responses to “Dovima the Divine”

  1. Wonderful!!!!

  2. Thank you for this today! I did a small post on dovima last year. I hate to link to it here and look like i’m advertising but it’s just a little bit more for today on our favorite supermodel!

  3. God, was I born in the wrong time or what?

  4. Everyone – Silent Storyteller, John and Architect Design,

    I am thrilled that you share my fascination with Dovima. She so epitomized sophistication and cool style with a regalness that was unmatched. if you study her pose on the steps, for example, a photo by Avedon that is rather well known, you have to marvel at the way she turned up her wrists, thrust out her pelvis, and bent her knee to extend her leg, all in an effort to showcase the clothes she wore. The use of her body, long and lithe, and those exquisite hands. That, to me, is an art!

  5. She was exquisite – a real “model.” It is pity that in today’s world the notion of respect for others in living up to what you are by station or natural endowments is no more. Stars and politicians are always out to show they are really like everyone else. Thank heavens, Dovima was not the girl next door!

  6. There’s a lot to be said for being, “not the girl next door”.
    Don’t you think?

  7. This is a beauty-post,Dovima, quotes and all. I always wondered about her name, so interesting. She is gazelle like and the Avedon quote about Beauty is seen in many photos of his time. Makes me wonder about some of the tortured images in the glossies now about what the lens sees as beauty. The photographers of the day- were all right on with there images- though the clothes many times don’t cut it through time the photo does-especially love those with interiors. Gaye

    • I believe that fashion photographers of “ago” had more than
      superficial relationships with many of their models and could articulate with intelligence
      and feeling what they saw, loved and photographed. Today, with so many paparazzi,
      modeling contracts and agents, I think that essential connection between photographer
      and model has been lost.

  8. by the way seeing Warhol’s cat- makes me think-How great is it that Michelle O. took the ladies of the -20 to see the AW Museum-that’s what I call progress. G

  9. ““I would just never appear in public without looking like Dovima, who was to me an image of myself.” Words to live by; substitute your own name or blog handle.

    I could stare at this post all day.

  10. I’ve been told that Dovima was my grandfather’s cousin – he died before she did, and didn’t talk about her much except to say that she spent too much time with No Good Men. Dovima was abbreviated from her given names, Dorothy Virginia Margaret – not as picturesque as “Victory Ma,” but perhaps you’ll take consolation from knowing that she invented the persona as a secret imaginary friend while she was confined to bed with a protracted childhood illness. The story is that her mother kept her shut-in for years out of smothering ‘concern’ for her health – perhaps her long residence in her own head, her imaginary world, gave her the skill of occupying multiple, shifting, imposed ‘roles’ as a model….?

    • SCL,

      How fascinating! Thank you so much for stopping by and enlightening us on this extraordinary model. I did understand her personal life to be a sad one, but your mention of her creation of an imaginary friend and the circumstances surrounding it, is riveting. I, too, could well believe that her childhood fantasies formed the genesis for her inspiration and self creation. Thank you again.

  11. She was one of the most beautiful women that I have ever seen. Not because she looked like a real woman, but because she was the very same incarnation, the epitome of how the most elegant and sophisticated woman would look if she could be real. The way she carried every single piece of clothe, makeup, hat. I remember seen her in the film Funny Face in the bookstore sequence with Audrey Hepburn, another elegant and beautiful woman, Miss Hepburn looked as if she were the mortal and Dovima the immortal Goddess of beauty, elegance and femininity. I think that I can’t say more than that.

  12. […] July 6, 2010 Dovima the Divine | The Errant Æsthete Posted by elfgirl under Uncategorized Leave a Comment  via […]

  13. […] Photo source. […]

  14. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but certainly you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already Cheers!

  15. […] The Errant Aesthete […]

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