The photographs (all dimensions are maximum dimensions) comprise:
1. John William Spencer Brownlow Egerton-Cust, 2nd Earl Brownlow, [George Frederic Watts, ¾ profile before the doors of the North Porch at Ashridge, Hertfordshire], 1865, albumen print (vignetted), 75 x 69mm, previously unrecorded
2. Unidentified photographer, [Photograph of an untraced pencil study by G F Watts of Adeline Jackson), 1850s], mid to late 1850s, 92 x 74mm [other copies: Lansdowne Album (private collection, UK), Julia Hay Norman album (hereafter JHN, National Media Museum, UK)]
3. Unidentified photographer, [Photograph of an untraced chalk study by G F Watts of Julia Margaret Cameron, probably 1852], mid to late 1850s, albumen print (cropped to oval), 203 x 168mm, [other copies: Lansdowne Album, Sibella Norman 1859 Album (hereafter SN 1859 , National Media Museum, UK), Mia Album (private collection, USA)]
4. Unidentified photographer, [Photograph of an untraced pencil study by G F Watts of Emma Brandling, later Lady Lilford], mid to late 1850s, albumen print (cropped to oval), 108 x 87mm, previously unrecorded
5. Unidentified photographer, [Photograph of an untraced painting by G F Watts of Julia Hay Norman, née Cameron, probably early 1850s], mid to late 1850s, albumen print, 101 x 80mm [other copies: SN1859]
6. Unidentified photographer, [Photograph of colour chalk drawing by G.F. Watts of Virginia Julian Dalrymple, 1853], 1853 to late 1850s, albumen print, 104 x 90mm, previously unrecorded
7. Unidentified photographer, [Photograph of an untraced pencil study by G.F.Watts of Lady Charlotte Guest, probably 1854], 1854-late 1850s, albumen print, 140 x 118mm, previously unrecorded
8. Unidentified photographer, [Photograph of an untraced chalk study by G F Watts of Sir Ivor Guest, 1857], c. 1857, albumen print, 140 x 119mm, previously unrecorded
9. Unidentified photographer, [Photograph of an untraced pencil study by G F Watts of Henry Thoby Prinsep, mid to late 1850s, albumen print, 117 x 111mm, [other copies: Lansdowne]
10. Unidentified photographer, [Photograph of a chalk drawing by G.F. Watts of James Spedding, c. 1853], mid to late 1850s, albumen print, 198 x 130mm, [other copies: Lansdowne, Mia]
11. O.G. Rejlander(?), Portrait of William Bayley (1849-1867)], c. 1863, albumen print, 113 x 75mm [other copies: Mia, SN1859, JHN]
12. after Julia Margaret Cameron, Portrait of Sir John Herschel, April 1867 or later, albumen copy print, 94 x 71mm [Cox & Ford, no. 676]
The following sequence begins at the back of the album:
13. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Portrait of Sir Henry Taylor seated], 1857-8, albumen print, 225 x 178mm, inscribed in pencil by M.S. Watts on the album (“by J.M. Cameron” and “Sir Henry Taylor author of Philip van Artevelde”) [other copies: Lansdowne]
14. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Portrait of Henry Herschel Hay Cameron seated, hat on knee], 1857-8, albumen print, 197 x 150mm, inscribed in pencil by M.S. Watts on album (“by Mrs Julia Margaret Cameron/née Pattle” and “Harry Cameron”) [other copies: Lansdowne; reproduced in Cox & Ford, 2003, fig. 66.]
15. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Portrait of Alfred, Lord Tennyson seated with a book, his wide-awake hat on his knee], 1857-8, albumen print, 239 x 184mm, [other copies: Lansdowne, SN1859, and other collections]
16. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Portrait of Mary Louisa Fisher and Julia Prinsep Stephen, both née Jackson], 1857-8, albumen print, 187 x 140mm, [other copies: Lansdowne ]
17. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Hardinge and Ewen Cameron playing chess], 1857-8, albumen print, 186 x 136mm [max. dim.], [other copies: Lansdowne, JHN]
18 Unattributed photographer, [Group portrait featuring Hardinge Cameron, Arthur Prinsep, a boy identified as "Maurice", Charles Cameron Jr and Valentine Prinsep seated on a bough], c. 1854, albumen print, 146 x 183mm, [other copies: Lansdowne, Mia], see also no. 26
19. Unattributed photographer, [Henry Herschel Hay Cameron on a high-backed divan], probably 1854, albumen print from a glass negative, 114 x 136mm, [other copies: Lansdowne, Mia, JHN; this print reproduced: Cox & Ford 2003, fig 67]
20. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Henry Herschel Hay Cameron, seated, and Charles Cameron (standing, holding a hat)], 1857-8, albumen print, 185 x 144mm, this photograph is believed to be unique [reproduced: Cox & Ford 2003, fig 65]
21. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Julia Margaret Cameron, seated, with Charles and Henry Cameron], 1857-8, albumen print, 190 x 154mm, [other copies: JHN, NPG, London, Wilson Centre for Photography, London, Hans P Kraus Jr Fine Photographs, New York, and others]
22. Unattributed photographer, [Group portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron and her six children (Hardinge, Henry, Eugene, Julia, Charles, Ewen), seated on the trunk of a fallen tree], c. 1854, albumen print, 150 x 191mm, previously unrecorded
23. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Sophia Dalrymple, née Pattle], 1857-8, albumen print, 188 x 149mm, previously unrecorded
24. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Ewen Cameron, standing, holding a book], 1857-8, albumen print, 201 x 151mm, previously unrecorded
25. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Eugene Cameron, seated, holding a book], 1857-8, 182 x 132mm, [other copies: JHN, SN1859]
26. Unattributed photographer, [Hardinge and Ewen Cameron seated on a bough], c. 1854, albumen print, 175 x 128mm, no. 18 is a variant from the same sitting [other copies: Mia, JHN]
27. Reginald Southey, [Henry Herschel Hay and Charles Hay Cameron seated on a divan], probably April 1857, albumen print, cropped to oval, 63 x 82mm [other copies: Cotsen Collection, Princeton University Library, RS5: 34]
28. 3rd Earl Somers (?), [Woman (possibly Virginia, Lady Somers) standing, the South Porch, Highcliffe Castle, Dorset], probably 1850, 223 x 170mm, salted paper print, inscribed by Julia Margaret Cameron in ink on lower left of the image (“[From] life/[ta]ken at/[H]igh Cliffe”), previously unrecorded
29. 3rd Earl Somers (?), [Sophia Dalrymple posed holding a flower in an interior at Highcliffe Castle, Dorset], 1860s albumen print from paper negative probably dating from 1850, 199 x 183mm, inscribed by Julia Margaret Cameron in ink on the image (“from life taken at High Cliffe”), previously unrecorded
30. after Robert S. Tait, Thomas Carlyle, 1851, 1860s, albumen copy print, 136 x 113mm
31. after O.G. Rejlander, Sir John Herschel holding a book, c. 1863, c. 1863 or after, albumen copy print, 114 x 90mm [another copy print in Lansdowne]
32. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Henry H.H. Cameron (seated with cushion) and Charles Cameron (standing, holding a hat) in matching outfits], 1857-8, albumen print, 204 x 158mm, previously unrecorded
33. James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Henry H. H. Cameron wearing a dark jacket], 1857-8, albumen print, 206 x 154mm, a variant of no. 14, previously unrecorded
34. Unattributed photographer, [Half-length study of a woman wearing a dark cloak with her hair down], early to mid 1850s, salted paper print, 193 x 141mm, previously unrecorded
35. Unattributed photographer, [Valentine Prinsep], mid to late 1850s, salted paper print, 142 x 110mm, believed to be unique [reproduced: Cox & Fox, 2003, fig. 68]
In her unfinished autobiographical memoir, Annals of My Glass House, 1874, Julia Margaret Cameron (née Pattle), the celebrated Victorian art photographer, insisted that she was a complete novice in photography when she made her ‘first success’ in January 1864. Scholars have, however, recently noted the meaningful ways in which Cameron was involved with photography prior to 1864. In 1850 she became related by marriage to Viscount Eastnor (later Earl Somers), an amateur photographer; later in the decade she commissioned sittings from leading commercial photographers featuring herself, her family and her friends, and even began printing photographs from negatives by Oscar Rejlander, the leading artistic and commercial photographer.
Cameron also began to put together important photographic albums that confidently assert her place within an extended family network and within a social network of celebrated men and distinguished women. The Signor 1857 Album is the name given by Cameron scholars to this album, the first of the eight albums (known respectively as the Lansdowne, SN1859, JHN, Mia, Somers-Cocks, MacTier [untraced], and JMC to GFW Albums) that Cameron inscribed to friends and family in the six year period before she possessed a camera of her own.
The present album is a celebration of art, photography, family and friendship. It is embossed ‘Signor./1857’, ‘Signor’ being the name that Sophia Dalrymple, another of the Pattle sisters (see image nos 23 & 29), gave to George Frederic Watts (no. 1), the painter. From the early 1850s Watts lived with another Pattle sister, Sara, and her husband Henry Thoby Prinsep (no. 9) at Little Holland House in Kensington in London, and Sara developed a bohemian salon centred on her resident artist.
The album begins with a previously unrecorded photographic portrait of Watts (no. 1), and then there is a sequence of nine photographic copies after portrait drawings he made during the 1850s, some of the originals for which are currently untraced. Many of these drawings may be connected to the Lincoln’s Inn fresco on which Watts was working in the late 1850s, as several of the individuals portrayed also appear in the fresco. The album may have once been intended as an early form of photographic catalogue of Watts's work, with photography acting as a handmaid to the fine arts. The most important photographs are, however, a sequence of portraits from life that begin at the rear of the album; read from the reverse, Cameron’s gift to Watts is a much more intimate object and identifies photography as a creative medium in its own right. These photographs include two photographs that are both inscribed by Cameron, but are more likely to be by Earl Somers, a previously unknown study of Cameron from c.1854 uniquely showing her with all six of her children, two photographs featuring the Cameron boys from the same early date, and a sequence of twelve photographs that appear to have been taken by the same hand in the same setting (the sitters are in the same clothes, and the same furniture appears repeatedly) and which features Alfred Tennyson (no. 15), Henry Taylor (no. 13), Julia Margaret Cameron (no. 21), Sophia Dalrymple (no. 23), a portrait of Cameron’s nieces Julia and Mary Jackson (no 16) and studies featuring Cameron’s sons Eugene, Ewen, Hardinge, Charles and Henry Cameron. Some of these photographs are known from the small number of examples found in the other early Cameron albums but others are unique to this album.
The photographs in the album are the work of a number of different photographers. Only four photographs have been definitively attributed: one each by Brownlow, Rejlander, Cameron, and Southey. The identities of the photographers of the portraits by Watts is not known. The identity of the photographers who took the unique portraits of Valentine Prinsep, Henry H.H. Cameron on a divan, and the unknown woman with her hair down also remain mysteries. The sequence of 12 beautifully composed studio portraits, the majority of which feature one or more of Cameron’s five sons but which also include portraits of the poets Alfred Tennyson and Henry Taylor, have a naturalism and, in some examples, an insistence upon the intimate bonds of family life, that is rarely seen in portraits of the period. It is tempting to speculate that Cameron was responsible for choreographing the sitting or sittings. The photographer may well be James Mudd, who has been credited with a portrait of Tennyson that was almost certainly taken at the same time as the portrait of the poet found here. There are also tantalising links to Joseph Cundall’s Photographic Institution at 168 New Bond Street, which Cameron is known to have visited.
The Signor 1857 Album, the first of eight remarkable early albums, is a significant piece of evidence in the story of how, in mid-Victorian England, a middle-aged woman with no previous experience of visual art-making became one of the most celebrated exponents of picture-making by photography. By connecting Cameron’s life and her fascination with photography to the artistic practice (and social connections) of George Frederic Watts, the Signor 1857 Album further illuminates the historical moment when originality became the defining hallmark of Cameron’s art.
Sotheby’s is grateful to Dr Juliet Hacking & Dr Joanne Lukitsh for sharing their expertise in the cataloguing of this lot.
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