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Elizabeth Rigby [Lady Eastlake]

Hill & Adamson1843–1847

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

Elizabeth Rigby (1809-93) lived in Edinburgh during the 1840s, where she was welcomed into distinguished literary and social circles. She became a very popular sitter for Hill and Adamson (David Octavius Hill [1802-70] and Robert Adamson [1821-48]), appearing in more than twenty calotypes. One of these is believed to have been the first photograph viewed by Prince Albert.

In 1849 Rigby assumed the title Lady Eastlake upon marrying Sir Charles Eastlake (1793-1865). She became an author and critic, and in 1857 she published a groundbreaking article, "Photography," in the Quarterly Review, in which she wrote: "It is now more than fifteen years ago that specimens of a new and mysterious art were first exhibited to our wondering gaze...we examined them with the keenest admiration, and felt that the spirit of Rembrandt had revived." In the same article, she singled out Hill and Adamson's work: "Photography made but slow way in England; and the first knowledge to many even of her existence came back to us from across the Border. It was in Edinburgh where the first earnest, professional practice of the art began, and the calotypes of Messrs. Hill and Adamson remain to this day the most picturesque specimens of the new discovery."

Lady Eastlake is shown here seated in a doorway, which provides a frame for the contrast between the darkness inside and the outdoor light into which the sitter faces. She leans against a latticed screen and wears an oversized crucifix that reaches down to her lap. This possible allusion to a Catholic practice may be recognition of the expanding Catholic population in Scotland in the nineteenth century. Miss Rigby’s eyes are cast downward and appear almost melancholy, but the lyrical gesture may not have a poetic intent. Eastlake probably averted her eyes from the camera because the exposure time for the photograph would have been up to thirty seconds, too long for her eyes to remain focused.

Adapted from Anne M. Lyden. Hill and Adamson, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999), 36. ©1999, J. Paul Getty Museum; getty.edu, Interpretive Content Department, 2009.

Details

  • Title: Elizabeth Rigby [Lady Eastlake]
  • Creator: Hill & Adamson
  • Date Created: 1843–1847
  • Location Created: Scotland
  • Physical Dimensions: 20.8 × 14.3 cm (8 3/16 × 5 5/8 in.)
  • Type: Print
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Salted paper print from a paper negative
  • Terms of Use: Open Content
  • Number: 84.XM.445.21
  • Culture: British
  • Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
  • Creator Display Name: Hill & Adamson (Scottish, active 1843 - 1848)
  • Classification: Photographs (Visual Works)

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