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May Day

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Isle of Wight, England (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:

    Given by Alan S. Cole, 19 April 1913

  • Museum number:

    933-1913

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case X, shelf 311, box N

  • Download image

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 with great enthusiasm – but little modesty – about the new turn she had taken in her work.

This illustration to Tennyson's poem The May Queen (1832) shows the English rural custom of crowning a young and beautiful girl as Queen of the May on the first of that month. Cameron’s niece May Prinsep plays the title character, surrounded by Mary Hillier and children of local families. Cameron would revisit the theme in 1874–5 when she produced two volumes of illustrations to Tennyson’s poems.

Physical description

A photograph of three young women (Kate Keown, Mary Hillier and Mary Ryan) and two children (Freddy Gould and unknown girl) surrounding a floral arrangement. The woman in the centre of the frame is wearing a flower garland.

Place of Origin

Isle of Wight, England (photographed)

Date

1866 (photographed)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

Dimensions

height: 33.9 cm image, width: 28.6 cm image

Object history note

In her pioneering photography Julia Margaret Cameron pursued the Aesthetic ideal of 'art for art's sake', in which beauty is the only real purpose of art. In addition to her portraits of friends, family and eminent men, she made many photographs illustrating stories from literature, myth and folklore. This is an illustration to Tennyson's poem ' The May Queen'. The subject is the English rural custom of celebrating May Day with the crowning of a young and beautiful girl as the Queen of the May. As usual, Cameron's models are members of her family and her servants.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'May Day' (sitters Kate Keown, Mary Hillier, Mary Ryan, Freddy Gould, unknown girl), albumen print, 1866

Exhibition History

19th Century Photography: Victorian Visions (Lady Lever Art Gallery 01/12/2007-16/03/2008)

Labels and date

Gallery 100, ‘History of photography’, 2011-2012, label text :
Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-79)
‘May Day’
About 1866

This is an illustration to Tennyson’s poem ‘The May
Queen’ (1832). The subject is the English rural custom
of celebrating May Day with the crowning of a young
and beautiful girl as the Queen of the May. As usual,
Cameron’s models are her servants and members of
her family.

Albumen print
Museum no. 933-1913
[07 03 2014]
Julia Margaret Cameron: A Bicentenary Exhibition

May Day
About 1866

This illustration to Tennyson's poem The May Queen (1832) shows the English rural custom of crowning a young and beautiful girl as Queen of the May on the first of that month. Cameron’s niece May Prinsep plays the title character, surrounded by Mary Hillier and children of local families. Cameron would revisit the theme in 1874–5 when she produced two volumes of illustrations to Tennyson’s poems.

Given by Alan S. Cole, 1913
Museum no. 933-1913
[18 November 2014 – 25 September 2016]

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Albumen process

Subjects depicted

Hillier, Mary Ann; Gould, William Frederick (Freddy); Ryan, Mary; Keown, Kate

Categories

Portraits; Photographs

Collection code

PDP

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Qr_O69996
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