Julia Margaret Cameron (British (born India), Calcutta 1815–1879 Kalutara, Ceylon)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
36.1 x 28.6 cm (14 3/16 x 11 1/4 in. )
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1941
Not on view
In Cameron's Mountain Nymph, Sweet Liberty, Miss Keene, an arresting model about whom we know nothing but her last name, stares directly at the camera (and, by extension, at the viewer), her hair loose and her eyes open wide. Filling the frame, she seems to step out of the picture. The photograph takes its title from John Milton's poem L'Allegro, a celebration of life's pleasures:
Come, and trip it as you go On the light fantastic toe; And in thy right hand lead with thee The mountain nymph, sweet Liberty.
Cameron sent the photograph to her friend, the renowned scientist Sir John Herschel, who wrote back, "That head of the 'Mountain Nymph Sweet liberty' (a little farouche & égarée [timid and distraught] by the way, as if first let loose & half afraid that it was too good to last) is really a most astonishing piece of high relief-She is absolutely alive and thrusting out her head from the paper into the air. This is your own special style." Herschel seized upon the photograph's most striking quality, its startling sense of presence and of psychological connection with the viewer.
[E.P. Goldschmidt & Co.]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Four Victorian Photographers," November 16, 1967–January 1, 1968.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Photographs from the Museum's Collection," December 4, 1984–March 17, 1985.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 1," December 4, 1992–May 4, 1993.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Johnson Gallery, Selections from the Collection 7," December 12, 1994–March 12, 1995.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Framing a Century: Master Photographers, 1840–1940," June 3, 2008–September 1, 2008.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Julia Margaret Cameron," August 19, 2013–January 5, 2014.
Cox, Julian, and Colin Ford. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003. no. 335, p. 226.