Julia Margaret Cameron and The Signor 1857 Album

"The Signor 1857 album is the earliest of eight recorded photographic albums that Cameron compiled before she took up photography for herself. It contains work by several different photographers (some unattributed), including 15 unique images. It anticipates the photographs Cameron would later make for herself. In addition to portraits of the ‘great men’ of her acquaintance, Henry Taylor (no. 13), Alfred Tennyson (no. 15), George Frederic Watts (no. 1) and John Herschel (nos 12 & 31), it contains photographs of her children and her nephews and nieces; this mixing of the famous and the familial would become a hallmark of her photography. The album begins with a previously unrecorded and unattributed photographic portrait of Watts by Earl Brownlow followed by a sequence of photographic copies after portrait drawings Watts made during the 1850s, some of the originals for which are currently untraced. 

Signor 1857 photographic album is unique because of its ‘back to front’ sequence. When you turn the album upside down, there is a second sequence of photographs. Some of these include a photograph, almost certainly by Julia Margaret Cameron’s brother-in-law, Earl Somers. He was an important figure in the history of photography, until now, no photographs have been firmly attributed. This study photograph of Cameron with all six of her children is (unique to this album and previously unrecorded).
 Unattributed photographer, [Group portrait of Julia Margaret Cameron and her six children (Hardinge, Henry, Eugene, Julia, Charles, Ewen), seated on the trunk of a fallen tree], c. 1854, albumen print, 150 x 191mm, previously unrecorded.

  Here is the same photograph cropped and enlarged so you can see Julia Cameron with her six children much better...

  Cameron wrote cropping instructions in her own handwriting on the reverse of a couple of the prints in Signor 1857 album. There are also numbers written in pencil on the reverse of the prints which suggest that the photographs were inserted according to a pre-conceived sequence. The numbering is also in Cameron’s distinctive hand which seems to confirm that the album was authored by her."  (Joanne Lukitsh, ‘Before 1864: Julia Margaret Cameron’s Early Work in Photography’ in Julian Cox and Colin Ford, Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs, Los Angeles, The J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003).

Some more of the photographs taken from Signor 1857 album...
 James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Julia Margaret Cameron, seated, with Charles and Henry Cameron], 1857-8, albumen print, 190 x 154mm,[other copies: JHN, NPG, London, Wilson Centre for Photography, London,Hans P Kraus Jr Fine Photographs, New York, and others]

 James Mudd or Joseph Cundall (?), [Portrait of Mary Louisa Fisher and Julia Prinsep Stephen, both née Jackson], 1857-8, albumen print, 187 x 140mm, [other copies: Lansdowne ]

This photograph above shows an 11 year old Julia (Jackson) Prinsep Stephen with her sister Mary Louis Fisher. Julia Prinsep Stephen became the mother of author, Virginia Woolf, and an author in her own right. It is only my belief but this photograph from Signor 1857 might just be the earliest photograph taken of Julia. It is hard to see the handwriting (Camerons) at the bottom of the photograph, but she writes, 'Adeline and Julia.'  Adeline was the first name of Julia's daughter, Virginia Woolf and is the name Julia Margaret Cameron writes for Mary Louisa Fisher.  

To view the lot notes, the photographs, and a much more detailed description, visit this link, Sotheby's


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