Soul of a Woman

A Journey Through Art & Fashion

This was the title of one of Sotheby’s Talks to celebrate the work of Paolo Roversi, a revered fashion photographer with an outstanding career. It also marked the opening of an online auction featuring a selection of his most famous portraits, as well as rare prints from his own collection.

One of his most memorable and acclaimed photographs captures the beauty of supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova.

Natalia Vodianova by Paolo Roversi, Sotheby's
Natalia Vodianova by Paolo Roversi, Sotheby's

The talk, hosted by writer and broadcaster Camille Charriere, included Sotheby's Director and photography specialist Jonas Tebib, and author and journalist Laure Adler, who has just published a book about women’s bodies and the way artists have interpreted them.

The conversation focused on beauty and it was heartwarming to witness the mutual admiration between photographer and muse.

Natalia is like an angel fallen on my studio from a magic sky. She has this purity on her, her look was so pure, an open door to all those memories of these paintings created before me.” Paolo Roversi

Natalia Vodianova by Paolo Roversi, Sotheby's
Natalia Vodianova by Paolo Roversi, Sotheby's

Roversi was brought up with religious paintings by Sandro Botticelli, Raffaello and Leonardo da Vinci… These artists continue to inspire his work: “for me, it’s really something spiritual to do a nude. There’s something divine about it.”

Like so many other models, Natalia Vodianova said she didn’t feel beautiful while growing up, referring beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Her notion of beauty aligns with the following quote by Audrey Hepburn, much more related to what we do with our life.

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.” Audrey Hepburn

Vodianova was also enchanted by Roversi when they first met, remembering his big smile, kind eyes and larger than life personality. “It was like meeting an old friend.”

She said we evolve as a person all our life, and certain encounters are significant to our personal growth. This is so true!

If you read about people living a meaningful life, inevitably there’s a nurturing relationship with someone who truly loved and inspired them, either a family member or a friend, who may or may not be alive.

Roversi emphasised that above all they are friends, believing and trusting each other, and respecting the other person as a person, not as photographer and model. Their strong bond is certainly reflected in the iconic photographs, there’s a depth to them that is simply enchanting.

The perception of beauty is highly subjective and it has always changed throughout time. Roversi sees it as a ‘spiritual experience’ alluding to The Little Prince:

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Roversi loves living surrounded by art, his wife collected paintings and he started to collect photographs to sit along them. His collection includes a nude by Irving Penn and a portrait by Richard Avedon, real treasures for those who appreciate photography.

His advice to aspiring photographers is to “be spontaneous, be simple. The more you think the less you see…”

The sale is open for biding on Sotheby’s online auction until next Friday, 9 July 2021. You can watch the recording of this talk here.