Lady Ruthven

Photography Studio: Hill and Adamson (British, active 1843–1848)

Artist: David Octavius Hill (British, Perth, Scotland 1802–1870 Edinburgh, Scotland)

Artist: Robert Adamson (British, St. Andrews, Scotland 1821–1848 St. Andrews, Scotland)

Date: ca. 1845

Medium: Salted paper print from paper negative

Dimensions: 19.9 x 15 cm (7 13/16 x 5 7/8 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: The Rubel Collection, Purchase, Manfred Heiting and Lila Acheson Wallace Gifts, 1997

Accession Number: 1997.382.18


The vast majority of Hill and Adamson photographs show the ministers of the Free Church, notable residents of Edinburgh and distinguished visitors, or the hardy fisherfolk of Newhaven and Saint Andrews. On occasion, particularly in their portraits of the ministers-sober and all dressed alike-Hill and Adamson fell into formulaic patterns based on academic portrait painting. But there is no doubt that they were among the medium's most gifted portraitists, and one need only look at works such as this mysterious portrait of Lady Ruthven-reminiscent of Victorian fashion plates-to understand that Hill and Adamson possessed not only a profound human sensitivity but also a creative and sophisticated formal sensibility.