Paul and Virginia
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Julia Margaret Cameron
British, Freshwater, Isle of Wight, 1865
Albumen print
10 x 7 13/16 in.

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The subject of this photograph derives from the French romantic novel Paul et Virginie of 1787, which was translated and widely read in Victorian England. The models are Freddie Gould and Elizabeth Keown, local children from the Isle of Wight, where Julia Margaret Cameron photographed. The novel centers around a shipwreck, during which the heroine must shed her clothes to be rescued; she refuses to sacrifice her modesty and drowns. Cameron does not attempt to illustrate an actual scene from the text; instead, she suggests the novel's tropical setting through a bamboo-handled parasol, scattered greenery underfoot, and the models' appropriately disheveled drapery. Cameron often took well-known works of literature or painting as inspiration for individual images and then interpreted them loosely to communicate a universal underlying theme.