'For I'm to be Queen of the May, Mother'

Photograph
May 1, 1875 (photographed)
'For I'm to be Queen of the May, Mother' thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

In 1874, Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, invited Julia Margaret Cameron to make photographic illustrations to his Idylls of the King. This was a series of narrative poems based on the legends of King Arthur. After her large photographs were published as small, wood-cut copies, Cameron decided to produce an edition illustrated by original photographic prints. She accompanied these with extracts from the poems written in her own hand and printed in facsimile. She claimed to have made as many as 245 exposures toarrive at the 25 she finally published in two volumes.

In this illustration of ‘The May Queen’, the poem’s protagonist holds the wreath of flowers with which she will be crowned. Her loose hair, luminous skin and pale dress befit the role of a maiden chosen for her beauty.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Additional Titles
  • The May Queen (assigned by artist)
  • Idylls of the King and other Poems, vol. 2 (series title)
Materials and Techniques
Albumen print from wet collodion glass negative
Brief Description
Photograph by Julia Margaret Cameron, 'The May Queen' (sitter Emily Peacok), albumen print, 1875
Physical Description
A photograph of a seated woman (Emily Peacock) in wide-brimmed hat clutching a flower wreath to her chest with left hand
Dimensions
  • Image height: 340mm
  • Image width: 255mm
  • Mount height: 430mm
  • Mount width: 350mm
Style
Marks and Inscriptions
"From Life Registered Photograph Copy Right" in ink lower left verso of mount. "Julia Margaret Cameron" in ink lower right verso of mount. Oval blindstamp: "VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM LIBRARY" top centre verso of mount.
Gallery Label
Julia Margaret Cameron Victoria and Albert Museum The May Queen From Idylls of the King and Other Poems, Volume II 1875 In this illustration of ‘The May Queen’, the poem’s protagonist holds the wreath of flowers with which she will be crowned. Her loose hair, luminous skin and pale dress befit the role of a maiden chosen for her beauty. Given by Mrs Ida S. Perrin, 1939 V&A: 36, 36:1-1939(18 November 2014 – 25 September 2016)
Credit line
Given by Mrs Ida S. Perrin, 1939
Object history
Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–79) was one of the most important and innovative photographers of the 19th century. Her photographs were rule-breaking: purposely out of focus, and often including scratches, smudges and other traces of the artist’s process. Best known for her powerful portraits, she also posed her sitters – friends, family and servants – as characters from biblical, historical or allegorical stories.



Born in Calcutta on 11 June 1815, the fourth of seven sisters, her father was an East India Company official and her mother descended from French aristocracy. Educated mainly in France, Cameron returned to India in 1834.



In 1842, the British astronomer Sir John Herschel (1792 – 1871) introduced Cameron to photography, sending her examples of the new invention. They had met in 1836 while Cameron was convalescing from an illness in the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. He remained a life-long friend and correspondent on technical photographic matters. That same year she met Charles Hay Cameron (1795–1880), 20 years her senior, a reformer of Indian law and education. They married in Calcutta in 1838 and she became a prominent hostess in colonial society. A decade later, the Camerons moved to England. By then they had four children; two more were born in England. Several of Cameron’s sisters were already living there, and had established literary, artistic and social connections. The Camerons eventually settled in Freshwater, on the Isle of Wight.



At the age of 48 Cameron received a camera as a gift from her daughter and son-in-law. It was accompanied by the words, ‘It may amuse you, Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater.’ Cameron had compiled albums and even printed photographs before, but her work as a photographer now began in earnest.



The Camerons lived at Freshwater until 1875, when they moved to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where Charles Cameron had purchased coffee and rubber plantations, managed under difficult agricultural and financial conditions by three of their sons. Cameron continued her photographic practice at her new home yet her output decreased significantly and only a small body of photographs from this time remains. After moving to Ceylon the Camerons made only one more visit to England in May 1878. Julia Margaret Cameron died after a brief illness in Ceylon in 1879.



Cameron’s relationship with the Victoria and Albert Museum dates to the earliest years of her photographic career. The first museum exhibition of Cameron's work was held in 1865 at the South Kensington Museum, London (now the V&A). The South Kensington Museum was not only the sole museum to exhibit Cameron’s work in her lifetime, but also the institution that collected her photographs most extensively in her day. In 1868 the Museum gave Cameron the use of two rooms as a portrait studio, perhaps qualifying her as its first artist-in-residence. Today the V&A’s Cameron collection includes photographs acquired directly from the artist, others collected later from various sources, and five letters from Cameron to Sir Henry Cole (1808–82), the Museum’s founding director and an early supporter of photography.
Production
Originally part of a bound folio volume containing 13 photographs by Cameron (one of two albums of illustrations to Tennyson's 'Idylls of the King and other Poems' published by Henry S. King & Co., 1874-75). This photograph is from volume II. Each photograph is mounted on bluish mounts with gilt borders.
Subjects depicted
Association
Literary References
  • Alfred Tennyson's "'Idylls of the King' and Other Poems." 2 vols. London: Henry S. King and Co., 1874-75. 26 albumen prints (pt. 1:"Idylls of the King," 13 prints, including the frontispiece portrait of Tennyson, published Dec. 1874; pt. 2: "Other Poems," 13 prints, including the frontispiece portrait of Tennyson, published May 1875).
  • Alfred Tennyson 'The May Queen', 1832
Summary
In 1874, Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, invited Julia Margaret Cameron to make photographic illustrations to his Idylls of the King. This was a series of narrative poems based on the legends of King Arthur. After her large photographs were published as small, wood-cut copies, Cameron decided to produce an edition illustrated by original photographic prints. She accompanied these with extracts from the poems written in her own hand and printed in facsimile. She claimed to have made as many as 245 exposures toarrive at the 25 she finally published in two volumes.



In this illustration of ‘The May Queen’, the poem’s protagonist holds the wreath of flowers with which she will be crowned. Her loose hair, luminous skin and pale dress befit the role of a maiden chosen for her beauty.
Associated Object
36:1-1939 (text)
Bibliographic References
  • Ford, Colin and Cox, Julian. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. London: Thames and Hudson, 2003. Cat. no. 1176, p.477, ill.
  • Gernsheim, Helmut. Julia Margaret Cameron: Her Life and Photographic Work. Millerton, N.Y.: Aperture, 1975, p. 95.
  • Lukitsh, Joanne. Cameron: Her Work and Career. Rochester, N.Y.: International Museum of Photography at George Eastman House, 1986, p.69.
  • Weaver, Mike. Julia Margaret Cameron 1815 - 1879. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1984, p. 57.
  • Wolf, Sylvia (et al). Julia Margaret Cameron's Women. London: The Institute of Chicago and London: Yale University Press, 1998, pl. 14
  • Weaver, Mike. Whisper of the Muse: The Overstone album and other photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron. Malibu, California: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986, p. 49.
  • Weiss, Marta. Julia Margaret Cameron: Photographs to electrify you with delight and startle the world. London: MACK, 2015, p. 121.
Collection
Accession Number
36-1939

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdJuly 1, 2009
Record URL