Julia Margaret Cameron (British (born India), Calcutta 1815–1879 Kalutara, Ceylon)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
36.8 x 29.0 cm (14 1/2 x 11 7/16 in. )
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1969
Not on view
In this photograph, modeled closely on a painting then attributed to the Italian Baroque artist Guido Reni, May Prinsep plays the role of Beatrice Cenci, a sixteenth-century Roman woman whose sad tale of rape, revenge, and execution was retold in a nineteenth-century play by Percy Bysshe Shelley. While Cameron’s portraits of “men great thro’ genius” had the built-in appeal of celebrity, her portraits of “women great thro’ love” most often depended upon literary, artistic, historical, or biblical allusion for broader commercial appeal.