The J. Paul Getty Museum


Object Details




Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815 - 1879)




Freshwater, Isle of Wight, England (Place Created)




Albumen silver print

Object Number:



33.5 × 24.6 cm (13 3/16 × 9 11/16 in.)

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Object Description

This serene study illustrates a key scene in the story of Christ’s resurrection: “For the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow” (Matthew 28:2-3). Julia Margaret Cameron chose to employ a female in the traditionally male role of guardian of the Holy Sepulchre. She used her most familiar and trustworthy model, Mary Hillier (1847-1936) (84.XZ.186.31, 84.XZ.186.76, 84.XZ.186.40, 84.XZ.186.41, 84.XM.443.65), whose handsome profile and abundant tresses seem in keeping with the drama of Saint Matthew’s gospel. A remarkable, otherworldly light floods in from above, causing a halo effect. A print in the collection of the George Eastman Museum bears an inscription in Cameron’s hand: “God’s glory smote her on the face/a coruscation of spiritual unearthly light is playing over the head in mystic lightning flash of glory.”

As Mike Weaver explains in his book Whisper of the Muse, the figure at the tomb also represents the type of Mary Magdalene, whose principal attribute is her hair, with which she concealed her nakedness as a fallen woman and in her humility used to dry the feet of Christ. The picture therefore combines the pure and impure, the sacred and profane. Cameron’s use of Hillier—“Mary Madonna”—as Mary Magdalene reinforces this dichotomous theme (84.XZ.186.76).

A review of Cameron’s photographs in the Intellectual Observer of February 1867 drew attention to her skillful rendering of hair: “Beautiful hair, left free, is one of the most poetic of nature’s productions, and very subtle and sympathetic are the combinations of light and shade which it exhibits, and which defy the efforts of ordinary artists to reproduce.”

The Getty has two prints of this image (84.XM.443.6).

Julian Cox. Julia Margaret Cameron, In Focus: From the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), 78. ©1996 The J. Paul Getty Museum.


Dante Gabriel Rossetti, British, 1828 - 1882, by descent to his family.


Family of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, British, 1828 - 1882

- 1975

Private Collection [sold, "Photographic Images and Related Material," Sotheby's, Belgravia, London, October 24, 1975, lot 216, to Samuel Wagstaff, Jr.]

1975 - 1984

Samuel Wagstaff, Jr., American, 1921 - 1987, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Julia Margaret Cameron's Women (September 19, 1998 to November 30, 1999)
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, September 19, 1998 to January 3, 1999
  • The Museum of Modern Art (New York), January 27 to May 4, 1999
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco), August 27 to November 30, 1999
Julia Margaret Cameron: Nineteenth Century Photographic Genius (February 6 to August 30, 2003)
  • National Portrait Gallery (London), February 6 to May 18, 2003
  • National Museum of Photography, Film and Television (Bradford), June 5 to August 30, 2003
Julia Margaret Cameron, Photographer (November 21, 2003 to January 11, 2004)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 21, 2003 to January 11, 2004

Cox, Julian, and Colin Ford. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. Joanne Lukitsh and Philippa Wright, contributors. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), ill. p. 260, cat. 469.

Ford, Colin, Julia Margaret Cameron: A Critical Biography (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003).