In late 1969, Diane Arbus (1923–1971) began to work on a portfolio. She titled it A box of ten photographs. Its case designed by Marvin Israel, the selection of photographs by Arbus, her exquisite prints, and her inscribed vellums—every component was carefully conceived to stage an intimate encounter. She had completed and sold only four sets of a planned edition of fifty at the time of her death in 1971. Little known due to its rarity, the portfolio bridged a lifetime of modest recognition with a posthumous career of extraordinary acclaim.
This catalogue traces the history of A box of ten photographs using the eleven-print set that she made for Bea Feitler, art director at Harper’s Bazaar. It was acquired by the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1986 and is the only one of the portfolios completed and sold by Arbus that is publicly held. All eleven prints are beautifully reproduced, along with their handwritten vellums.