South Kensington Museum, Interior view of South Court showing 'Kensington Valhalla' mosaics of Apelles, Pisano, Cimabue and Torrel thumbnail 1
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F , Case X, Shelf 601, Box B

South Kensington Museum, Interior view of South Court showing 'Kensington Valhalla' mosaics of Apelles, Pisano, Cimabue and Torrel

Photograph
ca. 1875 (photographed)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

Photographs and photographers were present from the very beginning of the V&A's history and the Museum has an extensive collection of images from the 1850s through to the present which documents the construction and development of the V&A and the South Kensington site.

Originally collected by the National Art Library as part of a programme to record works of art, architecture and design in the interest of public education, these topographic and architectural views were valued as records and as source material for students of architecture and design. As well as being crucial records of the history of the V&A, and an important element within the National Art Library's visual encyclopaedia, these photographs are also significant artefacts in the history of the art of photography.

Isabel Cowper was the sister of the South Kensington Museum's first official photographer, Charles Thurston Thompson (1816-1868) and of the Superintendent of the Museum, Richard A. Thompson. Little is known about Cowper, but in her letter of resignation in 1891, she refers to herself as the Museum's 'Official Photographer', having taken up the position after the death of her brother. As such, she is an important part of the early history of V&A and a seminal figure behind the Museum’s early uptake of photography to document the arts.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Albumen print
Brief Description
Photograph, Isabel Agnes Cowper, South Kensington Museum, Interior view of South Court showing 'Kensington Valhalla' mosaics of Apelles, Pisano, Cimabue and Torrel, albumen print, ca. 1875
Physical Description
A photograph of arched doorways with painted portraits above.
Dimensions
  • Image height: 220mm
  • Image width: 163mm
  • Card height: 331mm
  • Card width: 233mm
Marks and Inscriptions
  • London: South Kensington / Victoria & Albert Museum / (South Court, part of.) (Inscribed bottom left.)
  • 'I A C' (photographers initials, pencil, lower right mount)
Gallery Label
Gallery 100 ‘A History of Photography’, 2014-2015, label text: Isabel Agnes Cowper (1826?–1911) Views of the South Court and the Great Staircase About 1870 In addition to documenting the collection, Cowper photographed architectural details of the newly constructed Museum. Here she captured the Italianate decoration of the now hidden South Court, designed by Godfrey Sykes, the Museum’s chief decorative designer. The ‘Great Staircase’ is located in an area now used as staff offices. Cowper’s photograph of the staircase reveals her ability to depict architecturally complex and confined spaces using only natural light. Albumen print Museum nos. 75:958, 73:381 (06 03 2014)
Subjects depicted
Place Depicted
Summary
Photographs and photographers were present from the very beginning of the V&A's history and the Museum has an extensive collection of images from the 1850s through to the present which documents the construction and development of the V&A and the South Kensington site.



Originally collected by the National Art Library as part of a programme to record works of art, architecture and design in the interest of public education, these topographic and architectural views were valued as records and as source material for students of architecture and design. As well as being crucial records of the history of the V&A, and an important element within the National Art Library's visual encyclopaedia, these photographs are also significant artefacts in the history of the art of photography.



Isabel Cowper was the sister of the South Kensington Museum's first official photographer, Charles Thurston Thompson (1816-1868) and of the Superintendent of the Museum, Richard A. Thompson. Little is known about Cowper, but in her letter of resignation in 1891, she refers to herself as the Museum's 'Official Photographer', having taken up the position after the death of her brother. As such, she is an important part of the early history of V&A and a seminal figure behind the Museum’s early uptake of photography to document the arts.

Associated Object
75:958/A (Version)
Bibliographic Reference
Julius Bryant, ed. Art and Design for All. The Victoria and Albert Museum London: V&A Publishing, 2011. ISBN: 9781851776665.
Other Number
10191 (MA/32/30) - Negative number (V&A Archive Guard Book reference)
Collection
Accession Number
75958

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record createdJuly 1, 2009
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