Very seductive and a little dangerous: Celebrating Queen Victoria’s 200th Birthday

Queen Victoria described how she ‘would venture to warn against too great an intimacy with artists as it is very seductive and a little dangerous’. But she was a monarch that relied on the art and visual culture of the nineteenth century. Utilising painting, prints, and the new technology of photography, she got intimate with artists, recreating the image of the monarchy. In doing so, she was attempting to move it from the drunkenness, debauchery, and scandal of the reigns of her two uncles, George IV and William IV (with mixed success). In an age that really saw the development of mass media, she curated her public image very closely – and much more effectively.

So effectively, in fact, that many British people can still identify Queen Victoria in a portrait painting or photograph today. It’s therefore very exciting when new images – particularly of Victoria as a young woman – are discovered, and then shown to the public.

That’s exactly what happened on 24 May 2019, when the Museum of London announced that they had discovered two previously unknown stereoscopic photographs of Queen Victoria (below). The images were taken in 1854, when Victoria was 25. The date of the Museum of London’s release of the stereographs is significant – it was Victoria’s 200th birthday!

The release of the images was particularly exciting for me. As a scholar of photographic history, currently working on a thesis about stereoscopic photography, it was fantastic to see the medium used to record nineteenth century royalty. The historic period to which Victoria lends her name has fascinated me for many years, and inspired me to go on to postgraduate study.

Find out more about the Museum of London’s release of the two stereographs here.

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