One of the greatest portraitists in the history of photography—indeed in any medium—Julia Margaret Cameron blended an unorthodox technique, a profoundly spiritual sensibility, and a Pre-Raphaelite–inflected aesthetic to create a gallery of vivid portraits and a mirror of the Victorian soul. Condemned by some contemporaries for sloppy craftsmanship, she purposely avoided the perfect resolution and minute detail that professional portrait studios strove for, opting instead for carefully directed light, soft focus, and long exposures that allowed her sitters’ slight movements to register in her pictures, instilling them with a sense of breath and life. Cameron’s male subjects included a host of Victorian luminaries such as Charles Darwin, to whom she gave this print. Her female subjects, by contrast, were most often relatives, neighbors, or household servants, portrayed in the guise of literary, historical, or biblical characters. In this close-up portrait, Cameron presented her adopted daughter Cyllena Wilson as Rosalba, a young bride torn between duty and desire in the play The Virgin Widow by the photographer’s close friend Sir Henry Taylor.


  • Title: Rosalba (Cyllene Wilson)
  • Creator: Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Creator Lifespan: 1815 - 1879
  • Creator Nationality: British
  • Creator Gender: Female
  • Date Created: 1867
  • Physical Dimensions: w28.1 x h35.5 cm (image)
  • Type: Photograph
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Albumen print
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by the Brown Foundation Accessions Endowment Fund, The Manfred Heiting Collection

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