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Painted photograph of a tile design for the Grill Room, South Kensington Museum

  • Object:

    Painted photograph

  • Place of origin:

    South Kensington (probably, made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1868-1885 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Williamson, J. Ireland (painter (artist))
    Poynter, Edward John (Sir), born 1836 - died 1919 (designer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Salted paper print (probably), overpainted in watercolour

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level D, case C, shelf 117

Physical description

Blue and white painted photograph of a roundel design for tiles. A medieval warship armed with cannon dominates the composition, port-bow view. It lies at anchor, sails furled and pennants fluttering. A few people can be seen on board, including one figure in the crow's nest. Two other similar ships are visible, port-bow view: one to the far left, only partially accommodated in the composition; one sailing on the distant open water. In the foreground, an armed man overlooks the scene from a battlement defended with cannon. A blue border encloses the composition.

Place of Origin

South Kensington (probably, made)


ca. 1868-1885 (made)


Williamson, J. Ireland (painter (artist))
Poynter, Edward John (Sir), born 1836 - died 1919 (designer)

Materials and Techniques

Salted paper print (probably), overpainted in watercolour


Height: 24.3 cm of paper approx., Width: 23.8 cm of paper approx., Diameter: 21.7 cm of image approx.

Object history note

E. J. Poynter was invited to tender for the decoration of the Grill Room in November 1865. Many of Poynter's original dado tile designs for the Grill Room are signed with his monogram 'EJP' and the date 1868. That which is reproduced in this painted photograph (Museum object number 1121:7) bears no such information, but it was probably made at around the same time. Indeed, judging from the Seventeenth Report of the Science and Art Department, the Grill Room's dado tiles were all installed by the end of 1869 at the latest. It is not clear when exactly J. Ireland Williamson's painted photographs of the Grill Room tile designs were made, but this particular example was received by the Museum in March 1885.

Descriptive line

Painted photograph of an E. J. Poynter dado tile design for the Grill Room, South Kensington Museum: 1 of 11 land and seascape subjects. About 1868-1885.

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

Seventeenth Report of the Science and Art Department. London: printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode for H.M.S.O., 1870
p. 455
Fineman, Mia. Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012
p. 217
Physick, John. The Victoria and Albert Museum: The History of Its Building. London: The Victoria & Albert Museum, 1982
pp. 139-141; figs. 153-156; pls. XXVII-XXIX
Sheppard, F. H. W. (general ed.). Survey of London, vol. XXXVIII: The Museums Area of South Kensington and Westminster. London: Athlone Press, University of London, 1975
p. 111 and pl. 15

Production Note

This object is probably a salted paper print. According to Mark Haworth-Booth, nineteenth-century photographs made using salted paper were ideal for overpainting because of their matte surface; colour photography only became commercially available in the early twentieth century.


Watercolour; Salted paper


Salted paper processes; Watercolour painting

Subjects depicted

Sailing ships; Marine (visual work); Warship; Wall tile; Ships; Seascape; Cannons (artillery); Battlement


History of the V&A; Ceramics; Copies and Facsimilies; Delftware; Designs; Interiors; National Art Training School; Photographs; Tiles; Boats and ships; Ships


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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