The J. Paul Getty Museum

Prospero

Object Details

Title:

Prospero

Artist/Maker:

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

Culture:

British

Place:

Freshwater, Isle of Wight, England (Place Created)

Date:

May 1865

Medium:

Albumen silver print

Object Number:

84.XZ.186.32

Dimensions:

26.7 × 21.3 cm (10 1/2 × 8 3/8 in.)

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Object Description

In the same month that she created her commanding portrait of Alfred, Lord Tennyson (see 84.XZ.186.1), Julia Margaret Cameron photographed the poet Henry Taylor (1800-1886) as Prospero, the duke of Milan in Shakespeare’s play The Tempest. Cameron and Taylor met in 1848 and were neighbors in Kent and later in London. He visited Freshwater for a couple of weeks each spring and autumn; in his Autobiography (1885) he described the Cameron household as an environment where “conventionalities had no place.” Taylor was an important model for Cameron and a willing accomplice in some of her more extravagant pictorial and narrative explorations with the camera. Sometimes he was photographed as himself; at other times he was presented as the Kings Ahasuerus, David, and Lear, as well as the artist Rembrandt. Together with Tennyson, Taylor is the most frequently cited name in the copyright records for Cameron’s photographs at Stationer’s Hall, suggesting that she had high prospects for the commercial sale of his image.

Shakespeare’s Prospero is a mercurial scholar who learns the secret powers of nature after many years of laborious study. Cameron depicts the character as a sage-like figure with an arresting appearance. Taylor’s head entirely fills the frame; Cameron underscores the realism of his portrait in proportion and personality by inscribing the mount of the print with the word “Life.” The head is bathed in a shimmering, effervescent light that imparts a liquid quality to the sitter’s eyes. The combination of patristic beard and artistic dress cap produces a powerful image of male authority. In the journal Sun Artists (1890), Peter Henry Emerson described the picture as “one of her earliest works and one of the best. Recalls Leonardo da Vinci in its elaboration, lighting and sentiment. A great work in many ways.”

Julian Cox. Julia Margaret Cameron, In Focus: From the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), 44. ©1996 The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Provenance
Provenance
- 1865

Julia Margaret Cameron, British, born India, 1815 - 1879, by gift to Samuel Jones Loyd, baron of Overstone, August 5, 1865.
Source: Inscription on inside cover of album: "To Lord Overstone/From his Friend/Julia Margaret Cameron/Fresh Water Bay/5 August 1865/ Every thing in this book is from the Life & all these Photographs are printed as well as taken by J. M. C."

1865 - by 1883

Samuel Jones Loyd, 1st Baron of Overstone, British, 1796 - 1883, by gift or inheritance to his daughter, Harriet Sarah Jones Loyd Lindsay.
Source: There is a Lockinge bookplate on the inside cover of the Overstone Album. The Lockinge Estate was purchased by Lord Overstone and given to his daughter and son-in-law upon their marriage in 1858.

by 1883 - by 1920
by 1920 - 1975

Private Collection [sold, "Early Photographic Images and Related Material," Sotheby's Belgravia, London, June 26, 1975, lot 45 to Mickey Pallas.]

1975 - by 1981

Mickey Pallas, American, 1916 - 1997, sold to an unknown collector.

after 1975 - 1981

Private Collection [sold, "Photographs," Sotheby's New York, October 21, 1981, lot 54, to Daniel Wolf.]

1981 - 1984

Daniel Wolf, Inc., sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Whisper of the Muse at Loyola Marymount University (September 12 to October 25, 1986)
  • Laband Gallery, Loyola Marymount University (Los Angeles), September 12 to October 25, 1986
Portrait Photographs by Julia Margaret Cameron (November 25, 1987 to February 14, 1988)
  • National Portrait Gallery (Washington D.C.), November 25, 1987 to February 14, 1988
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
Bibliography
Bibliography

Cox, Julian. In Focus: Julia Margaret Cameron. Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), p. 44-45, plate 19, ill.