Photo from 1866 rescued from the attic sells in Nottingham...
The distinctive pre-Raphaelite portrait studies of pioneering
photographer Julia Margaret Cameron have always had a strong
following. However, her reputation and value received an extra
fillip with the National Portrait Gallery's major exhibition in
2003 and an accompanying monograph by Colin Ford.
This 11 1/2in (29cm) diameter albumen print of the young Kate
Keown taken c.1866, which featured in Mellors and
Kirk's sale in Nottingham on May 2, has all the key
It is an identified and attractive subject. The Keown sisters
were daughters of a Royal Artillery officer stationed at Freshwater
Bay, a stone's throw from Cameron's house on the Isle of Wight,
which she bought in 1860 and was the base for much of her
photographic work. They were frequent models for her over a 12-year
period, Kate famously posing for Cameron's Renaissance study
Mellors and Kirk's portrait is part of a series of life-size
heads produced in the spring/summer of 1866 when Cameron acquired a
large-format camera with a Dallmeyer lens.
The photograph was part of a last consignment from Sugwas Court,
Herefordshire, from which the auctioneers had sold a large volume
of furniture in February.
It is thought to have passed down since the 19th century through
the Morgan family, from whom the vendor, who lived at Sugwas, was
descended. It had been in the attic covered in grime and with
spotting to the mount, but the image was in good condition
retaining an "intense chocolately tone", according to auctioneer
With all these attractions, the £300-500 estimate always looked
So it proved, with pre-sale enquiries from America and bidding
on the day from a representative of the book trade and, ultimately,
a battle between a phone bidder and the successful buyer taking
bids in the room on a mobile phone. The winning bid was £30,000