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The Minstrel Group

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Isle of Wight (photographed)

  • Date:

    1866 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    The Royal Photographic Society Collection at the V&A, acquired with the generous assistance of the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Art Fund

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case XRP, shelf 112

In late 1865 Julia Margaret Cameron began using a larger camera, which held a 15 x 12-inch glass negative. Early the next year she wrote to Henry Cole, founding director of the South Kensington Museum (now the V&A), with great enthusiasm – but little modesty – about the new turn she had taken in her work. She continued to make narrative and allegorical tableaux, which were larger and bolder than her previous efforts.

Cameron inscribed some copies of this photograph with lines from Christina Rossetti’s 1862 poem Advent, ‘We sing a slow contented song / and knock at Paradise.’ The subject matter of the poem is religious, but Cameron emphasises the musical association. The central minstrel, or travelling musician, is dressed in Italian peasant costume and holds a mandolin.

Cameron's friend and mentor, the painter G.F. Watts, wrote to Cameron, ‘Please do not send me valuable mounted copies … send me any … defective unmounted impressions, I shall be able to judge just as well & shall be just as much charmed with success & shall not feel that I am taking money from you.’ This photograph is one of approximately 67 in the V&A's collection that was recently discovered to have belonged to him. Many are unique, which suggests that Cameron was not fully satisfied with them. Some may seem ‘defective’ but others are enhanced by their flaws. All of them contribute to our understanding of Cameron’s working process and the photographs that did meet her standards.

Physical description

A photographh of a young woman with two children (Mary Ryan, Kate Keown and Elizabeth Keown) in theatrical costume. Kate Keown holds a stringed instrument.

Place of Origin

Isle of Wight (photographed)


1866 (photographed)


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

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative


Height: 460 mm mount, Width: 381 mm mount

Descriptive line

Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'The Minstrel Group' (Mary Ryan, Kate Keown, Elizabeth Keown), albumen print, 1866

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

Ford, Colin and Cox, Julian. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003. Cat. no. 1099, p.450, ill.
From Infancy to the Green Years[in Russian] Moscow: State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, 2010. ISBN: 978-5-901124-73-4


Photographic paper


Albumen process; Photography

Subjects depicted

Domestics; Devotion; Musicians; Child; Poetry


Photographs; The Royal Photographic Society; RPS Digitisation Project


Royal Photographic Society Collection

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