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  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (photographed)

  • Date:

    1930 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Beaton, Cecil (Sir), born 1904 - died 1980 (photographer)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Gelatin-silver print

  • Credit Line:

    Bequeathed by Eileen Hose MBE

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Photography Centre, Room 100, The Bern and Ronny Schwartz Gallery, case EAST WALL

In the 1920s and 1930s Cecil Beaton was one of London's 'Bright Young Things'. He printed this photograph from two negatives, sandwiching them together to make a 'memento mori' (a reminder of death). One was a self-portrait, the other a skull. The composite image offers a typically stylish modernisation of an ancient theme.

Physical description

One one side, black and white self-portrait of Cecil Beaton, wearing a mask, and with a skull. On the reverese, a portrait of King George.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (photographed)


1930 (photographed)


Beaton, Cecil (Sir), born 1904 - died 1980 (photographer)

Materials and Techniques

Gelatin-silver print


Height: 24.2 cm self-portrait, Width: 18.7 cm self-portrait

Object history note

Beaton launched his career as a ‘society’ photographer in 1926 with an exhibition in London which won him an immediate contract with Vogue, where he worked for the next thirty years. His style was inspired by figures such as E.O. Hoppe, Edward Steichen and Baron de Meyer, the most successful magazine photographers of the 1910's and 1920's. Beaton’s fascination with glamour and high society prevailed throughout his life and in 1937 he became court photographer to the British Royal Family. He also became a successful stage and costume designer, most notably for 'My Fair Lady' and 'Gigi'.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Sir Cecil Beaton, 'Self-portrait', 1930, gelatin silver print

Labels and date

Photography Centre 2018-20:

Cecil Beaton (1904–1980)

Beaton launched his career as a society photographer with an exhibition in London in 1926, which quickly won him a contract with Vogue. Later, he became the official photographer to the British Royal Family, as well as an Oscar-winning stage and costume designer. He printed this 'memento mori' – a reminder of mortality – from two negatives, one depicting a skull and the other a self-portrait.

Gelatin silver print
Museum no. PH.3501-1987


Photographic paper



Subjects depicted

Ruffs; Masquerade; Masks (costume); Sleeve ruffs; Skulls


Photographs; Portraits


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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