[Seated Woman with a Bird]

Object Details

Title:

[Seated Woman with a Bird]

Artist/Maker(s):

Hugh Welch Diamond (British, 1809 - 1886)

Culture:

British

Place(s):

Surrey, England (Place created)

Date:

about 1855

Medium:

Albumen silver print

Dimensions:

19.1 x 14.4 cm (7 1/2 x 5 11/16 in.)

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The woman in a straw hat with a blanket draped over her shoulders was a patient at the Surrey County Lunatic Asylum. In 1848 Dr. Hugh Welch Diamond became superintendent of the female department there and began a systematic photo-documentation of the inmates to supersede the engraved portraits commissioned by his predecessor. Diamond made the photographs both for the patients' personal records and to serve as aids in diagnosis and treatment. This patient's diagnosis is unknown, but the fact that the photograph was made in an insane asylum leaves open the interpretation of the scene. The way the woman cradles the dead bird with its limp, broken neck while wearing a surprised, slightly bemused expression presents an uneasy question of whether she mourns the bird's death or was the cause of it.

Exhibitions
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA, (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995, (Cat.)
Capturing Time: A Celebration of Photographs (December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), December 1, 1997 to March 1, 1998, (Cat.)
Ghost in the Shell - Photography and the Human Soul, 1850-2000 (October 24, 1999 to January 17, 2000)
  • Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (Los Angeles), October 24, 1999 to January 17, 2000, (Cat. 28)
In Focus: The Portrait (January 27 to June 14, 2009)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), January 27 to June 14, 2009, (Cat.)
A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography (February 4 to June 8, 2014)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), February 4 to June 8, 2014, (Cat.)
Bibliography

Hargraves, Michael. Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Photographs (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999) p. 25.