Julia Jackson, the daughter of Julia Margaret Cameron's sister Maria (Mia), was Cameron's namesake and favorite niece. Cameron may have made this portrait just prior to Jackson's marriage to Herbert Duckworth.
The institution of marriage was extremely important to Cameron and the Victorian women of her circle. In this profile portrait, Julia Jackson appears heroic and stately, as a girl on the verge of womanhood. She faces the light, which brilliantly illuminates her and metaphorically suggests the enlightenment Cameron believed marriage would bring to her. Cameron trimmed the photograph to the oval shape, creating an intimate frame for the subject.
Only a few years after this photograph was made, the marriage ended tragically with Herbert Duckworth's sudden death. Jackson later remarried and bore two children, the painter Vanessa Bell and the writer Virginia Woolf. Jackson was the model for the character of Mrs. Ramsay in Woolf's 1927 novel To the Lighthouse.