Acrobat Sleeping. Famous Circus, Calcutta, India

Mary Ellen Mark, American, 1940 - 2015

Photograph taken in Calcutta (present-day Kolkata), West Bengal, India, Asia


Gelatin silver print

Image: 15 x 14 7/8 inches (38.1 x 37.8 cm) Sheet: 19 15/16 x 15 7/8 inches (50.6 x 40.3 cm)

© Mary Ellen Mark

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of the artist in memory of Anne d'Harnoncourt, 2009

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Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    Since the 1960s Mary Ellen Mark has made portraiture her primary focus, traveling internationally to photograph people and the lives they lead. This image, part of Mark’s extended project to document the itinerant circuses of India, illustrates her journalistic attention to the backstage existence of the circus performers—their daily practices, their improvised living quarters, and the surrogate family relationships that spring up among them. The sleeping girl, with her makeup applied and her cosmetics arrayed nearby, represents one of Mark’s abiding subjects: children approaching the dangerous shoals of adulthood, hovering between innocence and worldliness. Peter Barberie, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 403.