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Gentleness

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    Isle of Wight (photographed)

  • Date:

    1864 (photographed)

  • Artist/Maker:

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

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

  • Credit Line:

    Transferred from the British Museum, 2000

  • Museum number:

    E.1220-2000

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case X, shelf 311, box I

Like many of her contemporaries, Julia Margaret Cameron was a devout Christian. As a mother of six, the motif of the Madonna and child held particular significance for her. In aspiring to make ‘High Art’, Cameron aimed to make photographs that could be uplifting and morally instructive.

Within months of acquiring her camera, Cameron embarked on an ambitious series illustrating the nine Christian virtues. Many of the compositions resemble Renaissance paintings. Cameron struggled to represent abstract concepts such as goodness and temperance, as well as to distinguish each virtue from the others. She would not attempt another series until 1874, when she undertook the illustrations to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Cameron donated a set of all nine Fruits of the Spirit – mounted in a single frame – to the British Museum in January 1865.

Physical description

A woman (Mary Hillier), looking to her left, holds two naked children (Elizabeth and Alice Keown) on either side of her. The child to her left is standing

Place of Origin

Isle of Wight (photographed)

Date

1864 (photographed)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

Marks and inscriptions

'[crown stamp] BM - P&D 1865-1-14-1296'
verso, lower left, bottom edge on mount; stamped; brown ink

'Gentleness.'
lower centre on mount; pasted label; red ink

'1865.1.14.1296.'
on mount, lower centre, under image; inscribed; black ink

Dimensions

Height: 29.1 cm image, Width: 21.1 cm image, Height: 30.4 cm mount, Width: 22.5 cm mount

Object history note

This photograph is one of a series of nine made in 1864 (Julia Margaret Cameron's first year of photography), known as "The Fruits of the Spirit". Cameron conceptualised the photographs in the sequence individually, inscribing the title on the mount of each print, corresponding to the virtues of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance as taught by Paul in the Galatians (5:22-3). The photographs show a model (Mary Hillier) as a contemplative Madonna and in all but one (Joy, V&A Ph 363-1981) posed in the manner of the Madonna and Child (with one or two infants), an often depicted and important subject in the history of art, particularly in Flemish and Italian Renaissance painting. Cameron's house maid Hillier appeared so frequently and convincingly in the guise of Madonna that she was known in the Freshwater circles as "Mary Madonna".

Descriptive line

Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Gentleness' (sitters Elizabeth Keown, Mary Hillier, Alice Keown), from the series Fruits of the Spirit,albumen print, 1864

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

Julian Cox and Colin Ford, et al. Julia Margaret Cameron: the complete photographs. London : Thames and Hudson, 2003. Cat. no. 41.

Labels and date

Julia Margaret Cameron: A Bicentenary Exhibition

Fruits of the Spirit
1864

Within months of acquiring her camera, Cameron embarked on an ambitious series illustrating the nine Christian virtues. Many of the compositions resemble Renaissance paintings. Cameron struggled to represent abstract concepts such as goodness and temperance, as well as to distinguish each virtue from the others. She would not attempt another series until 1874, when she undertook the illustrations to Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Cameron donated a set of all nine Fruits of the Spirit – mounted in a single frame – to the British Museum in January 1865.

Purchased from Julia Margaret Cameron, 17 June 1865
Museum nos. 44:746, 44:756

Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
Museum no. PH.363-1981

Transferred from the British Museum, 2000
Museum nos. E.1218-2000, E.1220 to 1222-2000, E.1224-2000 and E.1226-2000
[18 November 2014 – 25 September 2016]

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Albumen print

Subjects depicted

Religion; Christianity; Children; Virgin and Child; Woman

Categories

Photographs; Religion

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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