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Photograph - Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision
  • Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision
    Cameron, Julia Margaret, born 1815 - died 1879
  • Enlarge image

Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision

  • Object:

    Photograph

  • Place of origin:

    England (photographed)

  • Date:

    1865 (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 Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941

  • Museum number:

    PH.255-1982

  • Gallery location:

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

Julia Margaret Cameron’s earliest photographic subjects were family and friends, many of whom were eminent literary figures. These early portraits reveal how she experimented with dramatic lighting and close-up compositions, features that would become her signature style.

In May 1865 Cameron used her sister’s London home, Little Holland House, as her photographic headquarters. Her sister Sara Prinsep, together with her husband Thoby, had established a cultural salon there centred around the artist George Frederic Watts, who lived with them. Cameron photographed numerous members of their circle on the lawn. These included artists, writers and collectors and Henry Cole, the director of the South Kensington Museum.

Cameron clothed Lady Elcho in flowing draperies to suggest a character out of Dante, author of the 14th-century poem the Divine Comedy. Cameron wears the same large, paisley-edged shawl in the portrait by her son. The fragmented female figure at the far left of the frame may have been assisting Cameron.

Physical description

Photograph of a lady (Lady Elcho), wearing a long robe and her hair covered, beside a tree.

Place of Origin

England (photographed)

Date

1865 (photographed)

Artist/maker

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

Materials and Techniques

Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative

Dimensions

Height: 27.3 cm image, Width: 22.5 cm image

Object history note

Julia Margaret Cameron's career as a photographer began in 1863 when her daughter gave her a camera. Cameron began photographing everyone in sight. Because of the newness of photography as a practice, she was free to make her own rules and not be bound to convention. The kinds of images being made at the time did not interest Cameron. She was interested in capturing another kind of photographic truth. Not one dependent on accuracy of sharp detail, but one that depicted the emotional state of her sitter.

Cameron liked the soft focus portraits and the streak marks on her negatives, choosing to work with these irregularities, making them part of her pictures. Although at the time Cameron was seen as an unconventional and experimental photographer, her images have a solid place in the history of photography.

Most of Cameron's photographs are portraits. She used members of her family as sitters and made photographs than concentrated on their faces. She was interested in conveying their natural beauty, often asking female sitters to let down their hair so as to show them in a way that they were not accustomed to presenting themselves. In addition to making stunning and evocative portraits both of male and female subjects, Cameron also staged tableaux and posed her sitters in situations that simulated allegorical paintings.

Descriptive line

Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision', albumen print, 1865

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. 218.
David Bindman, Stephen Hebron and Michael O'Neill, Dante rediscovered. From Blake to Rodin, Grasmere, The Wordsworth Trust: 2007. ISBN: 978 1 905256-23-5.

Labels and date

Julia Margaret Cameron: A Bicentenary Exhibition

Lady Elcho / A Dantesque Vision
1865

Cameron clothed Lady Elcho in flowing draperies to suggest a character out of Dante, author of the 14th-century poem the Divine Comedy. Cameron wears the same large, paisley-edged shawl in the portrait by her son. The fragmented female figure at the far left of the frame may have been assisting Cameron.

Given by Mrs Margaret Southam, 1941
Museum no. PH.255-1982
[18 November 2014 – 25 September 2016]

Materials

Photographic paper

Techniques

Albumen process

Subjects depicted

Portraits; Lady

Categories

Photographs; Portraits

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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