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The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere
Julia Margaret Cameron (British, born India, 1815 - 1879)
Albumen silver print
35.4 x 28.1 cm (13 15/16 x 11 1/16 in.)
In 1874, at the Poet Laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson's suggestion, Julia Margaret Cameron undertook a series of illustrations for his epic poem Idylls of the King. A friend and neighbor of Cameron at Freshwater, Tennyson published the collection of poems in 1872; the poems had taken him nearly forty years to write. The images that Cameron created for the Idyllsare the most illustrative works she made; she took great care with the details of costumes and props to insure the photographs' faithfulness to his narrative. She employed a variety of people as models, going to great lengths to ensure the appropriateness of sitter to subject. This image depicts the final embrace of the tragic lovers before they are forever parted:
And Lancelot ever promised, but remain'd,
And still they met and met. Again she said,
"O Lancelot, if thou love me get thee hence,"
And then they were agreed upon a night
(When the good King should not be there)
And part forever, Passion-pale they met
And greeted; hands in hands, and eye to eye,
Low on the border of her couch they sat
Stammering and staring; it was their last
A madness of farewells.