WILDE, OSCAR (1854-1900, poet and playwright)
PORTRAIT BY NAPOLEON SARONY (1812-1896), vintage photograph, albumen cabinet card, SIGNED BY WILDE ('Oscar Wilde'), quarter length, turned to the left and half looking back towards but not at the camera, wearing his astrakhan coat, framed and glazed, double-mounted and glazed to show verso, photograph 6 ½ x 4 inches (16 x 10 cm) including the original dark green mount, size of image 7 ½ x 5 ¼ , overall size 13 x 10 ½ inches (33 x 27 cm), 
AMONG THE BEST KNOWN IMAGES OF WILDE; it is one of the twenty-seven images of Wilde which Sarony took at the beginning of the former's tour of America in 1882. Sarony was the pre-eminent New York photographer of his day and one of the city's favourite eccentrics. At his death he left the negatives of some 40,000 photographs of celebrities.
Wilde, who was eager to make an international reputation, accepted an invitation to give a series of lectures to Americans on aestheticism. In preparation, he bought himself some suitably aesthetic outfits, including a long, heavy, fur-lined green overcoat (shown in this photograph). He became very attached to this coat, writing later that "it was all over America with me ... it knows me perfectly." It enfolded him when he set sail for New York on Christmas Eve, 1881, without a word of his lectures written.
Betjeman referred to Wilde's love of astrakham coats in his poem 'The Arrest of Oscar Wilde at the Cadogan Hotel':
'One astrakhan coat is at Willis's
Another one's at the Savoy...'
REFERENCES: Merlin Holland, The Wilde Album, 1997 (number 22 in Holland's sequence); Richard Ellman, Oscar Wilde, 1987.