[Seated Woman with a Bird]

Object Details


[Seated Woman with a Bird]


Hugh Welch Diamond (British, 1809 - 1886)




Surrey, England (Place created)


about 1855


Albumen silver print


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.

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