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Photograph - La Madonna della Ricordanza
  • La Madonna della Ricordanza
    Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879
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La Madonna della Ricordanza

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Isle of Wight (photographed)

  • Date:

    1864 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 17 June 1865

  • Museum number:

    44746

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 311, box U

Within months of acquiring her camera at the age of 48, Julia Margaret Cameron embarked on an ambitious series illustrating the nine Christian virtues. Many of the compositions resemble Renaissance paintings. Cameron struggled to represent abstract concepts such as goodness and temperance, as well as to distinguish each virtue from the others. Cameron donated a set of all nine Fruits of the Spirit mounted in a single frame to the British Museum in January 1865.

Like many of her contemporaries, Julia Margaret Cameron was a devout Christian and the motif of the Madonna and Child held particular significance for her as a mother of six. In aspiring to make ‘High Art’, Cameron aimed to make photographs that could be uplifting and morally instructive.

The South Kensington Museum (now the Victoria and Albert Museum) purchased many of Cameron's ‘Madonna Groups’ depicting the Virgin Mary and the infant Christ. Her housemaid Mary Hillier posed as the Virgin Mary so often she became known locally as ‘Mary Madonna’.

Physical description

Portrait of a woman (Mary Hillier) with black hair and dark dress holding a child (Alice Keown)

Place of Origin

Isle of Wight (photographed)

Date

1864 (photographed)

Artist/maker

Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

Marks and inscriptions

Kept in the Heart
Recto in pencil by unknown hand at bottom centre

Dup of 44766
Recto in pencil by unknown hand at bottom right corner

X311 44766 Photographs by Mrs. Julia Margaret Cameron, c. 1864-75. "Kept in the heart".
Museum label pasted to mount

Dimensions

Height: 26.5 cm image, Width: 22.7 cm image, Height: 36.5 cm mount, Width: 26.5 cm mount

Object history note

Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79) was one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 19th century. Her photographs were rule-breaking: purposely out of focus, and often including scratches, smudges and other traces of the artist’s process. Best known for her powerful portraits, she also posed her sitters – friends, family and servants – as characters from biblical, historical or allegorical stories.

Born in Calcutta on 11 June 1815, the fourth of seven sisters, her father was an East India Company official and her mother descended from French aristocracy. Educated mainly in France, Cameron returned to India in 1834.

In 1842, the British astronomer Sir John Herschel (1792 – 1871) introduced Cameron to photography, sending her examples of the new invention. They had met in 1836 while Cameron was convalescing from an illness in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. He remained a life-long friend and correspondent on technical photographic matters. That same year she met Charles Hay Cameron (1795–1880), 20 years her senior, a reformer of Indian law and education. They married in Calcutta in 1838 and she became a prominent hostess in colonial society. A decade later, the Camerons moved to England. By then they had four children; two more were born in England. Several of Cameron’s sisters were already living there, and had established literary, artistic and social connections. The Camerons eventually settled in Freshwater, on the Isle of Wight.

At the age of 48 Cameron received a camera as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law. It was accompanied by the words, ‘It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater.’ Cameron had compiled albums and even printed photographs before, but her work as a photographer now began in earnest.

The Camerons lived at Freshwater until 1875, when they moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where Charles Cameron had purchased coffee and rubber plantations, managed under difficult agricultural and financial conditions by three of their sons. Cameron continued her photographic practice at her new home yet her output decreased significantly and only a small body of photographs from this time remains. After moving to Ceylon the Camerons made only one more visit to England in May 1878. Julia Margaret Cameron died after a brief illness in Ceylon in 1879.

Cameron’s relationship with the Victoria and Albert Museum dates to the earliest years of her photographic career. The first museum exhibition of Cameron's work was held in 1865 at the South Kensington Museum, London (now the V&A). The South Kensington Museum was not only the sole museum to exhibit Cameron’s work in her lifetime, but also the institution that collected her photographs most extensively in her day. In 1868 the Museum gave Cameron the use of two rooms as a portrait studio, perhaps qualifying her as its first artist-in-residence. Today the V&A’s Cameron collection includes photographs acquired directly from the artist, others collected later from various sources, and five letters from Cameron to Sir Henry Cole (1808–82), the Museum’s founding director and an early supporter of photography.

This photograph was also known as 'Peace', part of the series Fruits of the Spirit. The V&A acquired another copy as part of a transfer of Julia Margaret Cameron material from the British Museum in 2000.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'La Madonna della Ricordanza / Kept in the heart', (sitters Mary Hillier and Alice Keown), albumen print, 1864

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Julian Cox and Colin Ford, et al. Julia Margaret Cameron: the complete photographs. London : Thames and Hudson, 2003. Cat. no. 49
Weiss, Marta. Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world. London: MACK, 2015, p. 70.

Labels and date

Julia Margaret Cameron
Victoria and Albert Museum

Fruits of the Spirit

1864

Within months of acquiring her camera, Cameron embarked on an ambitious series illustrating the nine Christian virtues. Many of the compositions resemble Renaissance paintings. Cameron struggled to represent abstract concepts such as goodness and temperance, as well as to distinguish each virtue from the others. Cameron donated a set of all nine Fruits of the Spirit – mounted in a single frame – to the British Museum in January 1865.

Peace and Goodness: Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, June 1865

Joy: Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941

Love, Faith, Long-suffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Meekness, Temperance, Peace: Transferred from the British Museum, 2000

V&A: 44746, 44756; Ph.363-1981; E.1218, 1220 to 1222, 1224, 1226-2000
[28 November 2014 – 21 February 2016]

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Albumen process

Subjects depicted

Madonna; Nativity

Categories

Children & Childhood; Christianity; Religion; Photographs; Biblical Imagery

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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