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Photograph - Theodore / Taken at Magdala 1/4 of an hour after his death - By Mr. R.R. Holmes
  • Theodore / Taken at Magdala 1/4 of an hour after his death - By Mr. R.R. Holmes
    London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company
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Theodore / Taken at Magdala 1/4 of an hour after his death - By Mr. R.R. Holmes

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1868 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print

  • Museum number:

    PH.373-1885

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, room 512M, case MX8, shelf X, box 19

This image of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II (Theodore) was created shortly after his death on 13 April 1868. Frustrated by a lack of communication from Queen Victoria’s government, back in 1864 Tewodros had taken a number of Europeans captive, including the British consul, Captain Cameron. The British response was a military expedition of huge complexity and expense led by General Sir Robert Napier. The expedition marched to Tewodros’s fortress at Maqdala where a brief battle took place. Britain won the conflict, but not before the captives were released and Tewodros himself had committed suicide.

The expedition – and the characters associated with it – caught the imagination of the British public. In particular the figure of the Ethiopian emperor, variously described as a ‘barbarian potentate’, ‘tyrant’ and ‘mad, wild king’, was a popular focus. Yet Tewodros could also be portrayed admiringly as a noble warrior – an attitude which this image seems to reflect. The original sketch was created by Richard Holmes, the British Museum’s special correspondent who accompanied the expedition. Text printed on this carte de visite records how Tewodros's likeness was captured ‘1/4 of an hour after his death’.

Physical description

Sketch of the death mask of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II (Theodore) reproduced as a photograph mounted on card to form a carte de visite.

Place of Origin

London (made)

Date

ca. 1868 (made)

Artist/maker

London Stereoscopic and Photographic Company (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print

Marks and inscriptions

Printed on front face of card: 'THEODORE / TAKEN AT MAGDALA ¼ OF AN HOUR AFTER HIS DEATH - BY MR R.R. HOLMES / "An admirable likeness of him" Times Correspondent’. Handwritten on reverse of card: '"Theodore" / The Heroic King of Abyssinia./ Murdered by the British Army under the Command of Sir / Robert Napier on 13 April 1868 / (27 June XXX8) // Royal Families of the World.'
Amended by 'J.G. Xrove 19 June 1901' in red ink to read: "Theodore II" / King of Abyssinia./ Committed suicide on the taking of Magdala by the British Army under the Command of Sir / Robert Napier on 13 April 1868 / (27 June XXX8) // Royal Families of the World.'

Dimensions

Height: 10 cm (of carte de visite), Width: 6.4 cm (of carte de visite)

Object history note

The original sketch of the dead Tewodros was created by Richard Holmes, the British Museum's special correspondent who accompanied the British Abyssinian Expedition. Text printed on the card records how the likeness was captured '1/4 of an hour after his death'.

Descriptive line

Carte de visite, Tewodros II (Theodore) of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), London, ca. 1868

Categories

African Diaspora; Portraits

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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