Julia Margaret Cameron (British (born India), Calcutta 1815–1879 Kalutara, Ceylon)
Albumen silver print from glass negative
33.9 x 27.6 cm (13 3/8 x 10 7/8 in.)
The Rubel Collection, Promised Gift of William Rubel
Not on view
No commercial portrait photographer of the period would have portrayed Herschel as Cameron did here, devoid of classical columns, weighty tomes, scientific attributes, and academic poses—the standard vehicles for conveying the high stature and classical learning that one’s sitter possessed (or pretended to possess). To Cameron, Herschel was more than a renowned scientist; he was “as a Teacher and High Priest,” an “illustrious and revered as well as beloved friend” whom she had known for thirty years. Naturally, her image of him would not be a stiff, formal effigy. Instead, she had him wash and tousle his hair to catch the light, draped him in black, brought her camera close to his face, and photographed him emerging from the darkness like a vision of an Old Testament prophet. Although very similar to another work in our collection (L.1997.84.6), this print is from a variant negative, with a slightly different inflection of eyes and mouth and, consequently, of spirit.
Inscription: Signed, titled "Sir J.F.W. Herschel (Bart)", and inscribed "From Life Taken at his own Residence Collingwood April 1867" in ink on mount; Colnaghi blindstamp and gilt outline on mount
Achenbach Graphic Arts Council. "Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection," January 1, 1984–February 1, 1984.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "The Art of Photography 1839-1989," February 11, 1989–April 30, 1989.
Canberra. National Gallery of Australia. "The Art of Photography 1839-1989," June 17, 1989–August 27, 1989.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "The Art of Photography 1839-1989," September 23, 1989–December 23, 1989.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Inventing a New Art: Early Photographs from the Rubel Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 1, 1999–September 19, 1999.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Julia Margaret Cameron," August 19, 2013–January 5, 2014.
Thackrey, Sean. Masterworks of Photography from the Rubel Collection. Sacramento: Crocker Art Museum, 1982. pl. 28.
Weaver, Mike. The Art of Photography 1839-1989. London: Yale University Press, 1989. pl. 62.