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Vivien and Merlin

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    England (photographed)

  • Date:

    1874 (Photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Miss Agnes May Ffytche, 1927

  • Museum number:

    85-1970

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X312, shelf I

In 1874 Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, invited Cameron to make photographic illustrations to Idylls of the King, his series of narrative poems based on the legends of King Arthur. After her large photographs were published as small, wood-cut copies, Cameron decided to produce an edition illustrated by original photographic prints accompanied by hand-written extracts from the poems printed in facsimile. She claimed to have made as many as 245 exposures to arrive at the 25 she finally published in two volumes in 1874 and 1875.

The sorceress Vivien, played by Agnes Mangles, casts a spell over the wizard Merlin, played by Cameron’s husband Charles. Mangles later wrote that Charles could not stop chuckling during the theatrically posed sitting, thus spoiling many negatives.

Physical description

A photograph of a woman (Agnes Mangles) standing with long loose hair and her face in profile, point at a robed, bearded man (Charles Hay Cameron).

Place of Origin

England (photographed)

Date

1874 (Photographed)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

Dimensions

height: 320 mm image, width: 265 mm image, height: 430 mm mount, width: 330 mm mount

Object history note

Originally part of a bound folio volume containing 11 photographs by Cameron and 11 pages of verse text by Tennyson and 3 other text pages (two photographs are missing, the frontispiece image of Tennyson and the last image, 'The Passing of Arthur'). Volume 1 of two albums of illustrations to Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King and other Poems' published by Henry S. King & Co., 1874-75). Each photograph is mounted on bluish mounts with gilt borders.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Vivien and Merlin' (sitters Agnes Mangles, Charles Hay Cameron), albumen print, 1874

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

Cat. no. 1164, p. 473
Cox, Julian and Colin Ford, with contributions by Joanne Lukitsh and Philippa Wright. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. London: Thames & Hudson, in association with The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles and The National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford, 2003. ISBN: 0-500-54265-1
Published in V&A Publications/Thames and Hudson 'Making It Up: Photographic Fictions' 2018, by Marta Weiss

Labels and date

Cameron produced two volumes of illustrations to Idylls of the King, Alfred Tennyson’s cycle of narrative poems based on the legends of King Arthur. Here the sorceress Vivien, played by Agnes Mangles, casts a spell over the wizard Merlin, enacted by Cameron’s husband Charles. Mangles later wrote that Charles could not stop chuckling during the theatrically posed sitting, thus spoiling many negatives. []

Cameron illustrated Tennyson's Idylls of the King, at the poet's request, for a twelve volume trade edition of his work. Her large photographs were published as wood-cut copies, much-reduced in size, and she decided to produce an edition illustrated by original photographic prints like this one, faced with hand-written extracts from the Idylls printed in facsimile. The relevant text is also exhibited here:
For Merlin overtalk'd and overworn
Had yielded, told her all the charm and slept. And lost to life and use
Then in the moment, she put forth the charm
Of woven paces and of waving hands
And in the hollow oak he lay as dead,
And lost to life and use, and name and fame. []
Julia Margaret Cameron: A Bicentenary Exhibition

Vivien and Merlin
From Idylls of the King and Other Poems, Volume I
1874

The sorceress Vivien, played by Agnes Mangles, casts a spell over the wizard Merlin, played by Cameron’s husband Charles. Mangles later wrote that Charles could not stop chuckling during the theatrically posed sitting, thus spoiling many negatives.

Given by Mrs Agnes May Ffytche, 1927
Museum nos. 81 to 91-1970
[18 November 2014 – 25 September 2016]

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Albumen process

Subjects depicted

Magicians; Costume

Categories

Photographs; Making It Up: Photographic Fictions

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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