Shimmer Like Gold

Victoria, the first British queen to document her life in photos

Victoria, the first British queen to document her life in photos

Queen Victoria photographed in a modest shawl with four of her children in February 1854 Roger Fenton – Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2013

The first time Victoria of the United Kingdom (1819-1901) saw herself in a photograph came out with her eyes closed . After seeing her husband (Alberto de Sajonia-Coburg-Gotha) portrayed on several occasions, he had overcome his reluctance to pose before the camera and when it was decided (in 1852, at 33) the displeasure was huge. Described in the queen’s diary as “horrifying”, the image was so unbearable that she scratched her face from the daguerreotype and only her children remained around the headless mother figure.

The photograph had become popular when only the monarch was 20 years old and had two on the throne, at the beginning of 1839. Both she and the king regent showed interest in the invention from the beginning increasing the popularity of the photos and in 1842 they started a collection of family images and taken by the first photographers. Victoria was the first British monarch to document her life photographically and those images now represent the technical progress of an era and the evolution in the relationship of the royal family with the camera.

A Royal Passion: Queen Victoria and Photography ( a real passion: Queen Victoria and photography ) -the Getty Museum in Los Angeles (USA) until June 8 – presents the long experience that the British monarch had with the then new medium. With representative loans from the Royal Collection of Isabel II of England and selected pieces from the museum’s collection, the exhibition presents little-seen daguerreotypes, private portraits of the royal family and a selection of copies of the first masters of photography among those who are Julia Margaret Cameron, William Henry Fox Talbot and Roger Fenton.

Evenings composing family albums

William Constable (1783-1861), of humble origin and much in demand for knowing how to make the model feel comfortable, was the author of the first real portrait when he immortalized Alberto. The sample includes this image in addition to the failed family photo that so distressed the queen – taken by William Edward Kilburn – and another for which he posed two days later also with Kilburn behind the camera, this time betting on a profile .

He commissioned a special bracelet of scapulars with portraits of the grandchildren. The kings collected, organized and framed photos of them and their nine children. Many afternoons they worked together to compose albums of images of their trips and of posadas and even Victoria ordered to make years later a special bracelet (also exhibited in the sample) with scapulars to take the portraits of their grandchildren.

A connection with the town

As the environment evolved, so did the pose. From the tension of the first sessions it happened to be shown with the security of a sovereign. It happened quickly: in an amazing 1854 photo taken by Roger Fenton she poses with four of her children wrapped in a plaid shawl that has little luxury, exhibiting a homely and intimate facet but still transmitting its power.

In a surprising photo, she poses wrapped in a Scottish shawl that has little luxury. As a connection between the people and the monarchy, the public photos served the monarch to strengthen her popularity and, after Alberto died in 1861, to make up for her absence from life. public for a deep personal grieving that kept the rest of his life. The portraits of the widow reflected the mourning of Victoria and later the image of a powerful queen who celebrated her diamond jubilee in 1897.

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