TENNYSON, ALFRED (1809-1892)
PORTRAIT BY JULIA MARGARET CAMERON (1815-1879), vintage photograph, albumen print, half length in profile facing right, swathed in a black cloak, looking rather dishevelled and contemplative and holding a book, SIGNED, INSCRIBED AND DATED BY JULIA MARGARET CAMERON under the image on the original mount: 'From the Life...Julia Margaret Cameron Freshwater I[sle] o[f] Wight, from life copyright Julia Margaret Cameron' with a further autograph inscription on the original mount now mounted in a separate window 'Given to Mrs Leaf as a token of friendship by Mrs Cameron March 18th '75', framed and glazed, arched at head, size of image 10 ¾ x 9 inches (27 x 23 cm), overall size 20 x 19 inches (50 x 48 cm), taken at Freshwater, Isle of Wight, May 1865, inscribed 1875
KNOWN AS 'THE DIRTY MONK' AND ONE OF CAMERON'S MASTERPIECES, THIS WAS TENNYSON'S SECOND FAVOURITE PHOTOGRAPH OF HIMSELF: 'I prefer the Dirty Monk to others of me... Except one by Mayall' (see lot 465).
In her unfinished manuscript, Julia Margaret Cameron recorded: 'Meanwhile I took another immortal head, that of Alfred Tennyson, and the result was that profile portrait which he himself designates as the 'Dirty Monk.' It is a fit representation of Isaiah or of Jeremiah, and Henry Taylor said the picture was as fine as Alfred Tennyson's finest poem.' Victoria Olson sees the 'Dirty Monk' as Cameron's contribution to the representation of Tennyson's 'double' nature. She used it as the frontispiece for her volumes of photographs illustrating Tennyson's Idylls of the King in 1874-1875. It was a paradoxical combination of the high and the low; the poet-genius and the unkempt presence (for which, until Emily took over his laundry, he was renowned for).
REFERENCE: Victoria Olsen, Julia Margaret Cameron & Victorian Photography, 2003.