Francesco Scavullo, who died in 2004, is probably best known for shooting the covers of Cosmopolitan for 30 years, imbuing them with a hard-bodied sexiness that helped define that magazine’s ideal of female empowerment. But his photos are also in the National Portrait Gallery. Sotheby’s will auction off some of his work on April 4. His life partner, stylist, and editor, Sean Byrnes, also worked with him. We asked Byrnes to tell us what went into making the portraits.
“Francesco was very spiritual and had wanted someone to pose as Jesus on the cross. Sting stripped right there and put my Halston cashmere-and-silk scarf around himself like a loincloth. When Sting saw the silk screen of that shot, he put his head down. He was sweet and said it was very humbling for him to play Jesus.”
“We went to her house in Malibu to talk about a shoot for Vogue, and when Francesco got out of the car, one of her Dobermans went for his neck and then bit him on the ass. She was so afraid he was going to sue her that she ran in and got a steak from the freezer and put it on his butt and then was like a little lamb.”
“It was in the seventies, and he was always asking people to have sex with him. Francesco was talking to this beautiful black woman, and he came over, slapped her on the butt, and said he wanted to have sex with her. She slapped him in the face, told him to fuck off. Jerry Hall is standing ten feet away watching the whole thing.”
“She was his favorite subject. When she saw him, she said, ‘I thought you were gay, but you’re hot. I’d love to sleep with you, but I’ve got the clap.’ Then she looked at a picture of Joe Dallesandro and said, ‘I’d love to sleep with him too, but he wouldn’t want to sleep with me.’ ”