The J. Paul Getty Museum

I Wait (Rachel Gurney)

Object Details


I Wait (Rachel Gurney)


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




Freshwater, Isle of Wight, England (Place Created)




Albumen silver print

Object Number:



32.7 × 25.4 cm (12 7/8 × 10 in.)

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Object Description

Our roles were no less than those of two of the Angels of the Nativity, and to sustain them we were scantily clad, and each had a pair of heavy swan's wings fastened to her narrow shoulders ... No wonder those old photographs of us, leaning over imaginary ramparts of heaven, look anxious and wistful. This is how we felt, for we never knew what Aunt Julia was going to do next.
--Laura (Gurney) Troubridge

Young Rachel Gurney's forlorn expression does not quite fit her role as an angel, but in a humorous way, her performance supports this photograph's staged look. She is perched on a box that is covered loosely in drapery and positioned stiffly on a table, with fake wings attached to her. Resting her chin on her crossed arms, she appears resigned to her fate of posing for the camera.

Julia Margaret Cameron made a suite of photographs based on putti from Renaissance and post-Renaissance paintings. As children, Rachel and her sister Laura were often recruited to play the cherubs. Years later, they remembered the patience it took to pose for their great aunt.


Virginia Woolf, British, 1882 - 1941

- 1974

Private Collection [sold, "Early Photographic Images and Related Material", Sotheby's Belgravia, London, March 8th, 1974, Lot 117 to Samuel Wagstaff, Jr.]

1974 - before 1982

Samuel Wagstaff, Jr., American, 1921 - 1987, by gift or sale to Robert Mapplethorpe.

after 1974 - 1982

Robert Mapplethorpe, American, 1946 - 1989 [sold, "The Collection of Robert Mapplethorpe," Sotheby's New York, May 24, 1982, lot 225, to Samuel Wagstaff, Jr.]

1982 - 1984

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

Whisper of the Muse: The Work of Julia Margaret Cameron (September 10 to November 16, 1986)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), September 10 to November 16, 1986
Julia Margaret Cameron: The Creative Process (October 15, 1996 to May 3, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), October 15, 1996 to January 5, 1997
  • Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto), February 4 to May 3, 1998
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), p. 388, cat. 890, ill.

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