Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the launching chains of the Great Eastern thumbnail 1
Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the launching chains of the Great Eastern thumbnail 2
Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F , Case X, Shelf 41, Box A

Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the launching chains of the Great Eastern

Photograph
1857 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This famous portrait was taken as part of a series of photographs by Robert Howlett that documents the construction of the massive steamship The Great Eastern on the banks of the Thames. It is a powerful image in which the British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), who was the ship’s creator, projects all the confidence and ambition of the Victorian era. Howlett portrays Brunel in his ‘stove-pipe’ hat and stacked-heel boots to give him height and presence. His formal clothes are dishevelled and muddied from the site. The backdrop is dominated by the chains of the stern checking drum. This controlled the slow slide of the ship down to the water’s edge, where it was launched by being lifted on the tide.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Albumen print from wet collodion on glass negative
Brief Description
Albumen print. Howlett, Robert. Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Launching Chains of the 'Great Eastern' 1857; 1857; Howlett, Robert. Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Launching Chains of the 'Great Eastern' 1857
Physical Description
Photograph
Dimensions
  • Height: 590mm (Note: Royal portrait mount)
  • Height: 287mm (Note: Object Height)
  • Width: 232mm (Note: Object Width)
Style
Gallery Label
Gallery 100, ‘History of photography’, 2011-2012, label text : Robert Howlett (1830-58) Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the Launching Chains of ‘The Great Eastern’ 1857 This portrait is part of a series of photographs documenting the construction of the massive steamship The Great Eastern on the banks of the River Thames. It is a powerful image in which Brunel (1806–59), the ship’s creator, projects the confidence and ambition of the Victorian era. Albumen print Museum no. Ph.246-1979 (07 03 2014)
Credit line
Purchased, 1979.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This famous portrait was taken as part of a series of photographs by Robert Howlett that documents the construction of the massive steamship The Great Eastern on the banks of the Thames. It is a powerful image in which the British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859), who was the ship’s creator, projects all the confidence and ambition of the Victorian era. Howlett portrays Brunel in his ‘stove-pipe’ hat and stacked-heel boots to give him height and presence. His formal clothes are dishevelled and muddied from the site. The backdrop is dominated by the chains of the stern checking drum. This controlled the slow slide of the ship down to the water’s edge, where it was launched by being lifted on the tide.
Bibliographic Reference
Hoozee, Robert (ed.), British Vision. Observation and Imagination in British Art 1750-1950, Brussels : Mercatorfonds ; Ghent : Museum voor Schone Kunsten, 200727
Collection
Accession Number
PH.246-1979

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record createdJuly 28, 2003
Record URL