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Round Tower, Windsor Castle

Henry Fox Talbotabout 1842–1845

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

William Henry Fox Talbot’s half-sister Caroline Mount Edgcumbe was a lady-in-waiting, and she showed the queen some of her brother’s earliest productions. (Victoria particularly favored the photographic renditions of ribbon.) On May 6, 1841, Caroline secured written permission for Talbot to walk the grounds of Windsor Castle to make “drawings.” It was almost certainly not his only visit there; this bold and unconventional view of the castle’s main tower was most likely taken on a subsequent outing.

This picture is also part of an unsolved mystery. It is contained in an album of largely experimental images compiled by Hippolyte Bayard, the independent French inventor of direct-positive photography who was largely forgotten in the excitement over Daguerre. The print is mounted on the same page as another Talbot work, Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire. Subsequent captions in an unrecognized hand imply that Bayard visited Talbot in England. While there is no record of Bayard making a trip to England, much is still not known, in spite of the existence of nearly ten thousand of Talbot’s letters, numerous diaries, and various other documentary sources. Talbot’s friend the Reverend Calvert R. Jones, a Welsh marine painter who later became an active photographer, did meet with Bayard in Paris and even worked with him. We know he took some Talbot prints to Bayard; this may be how these examples wound up in the album. They are an intriguing connection between two inventors who shared a common dream, whether or not they ever met.

Adapted from Larry Schaaf, William Henry Fox Talbot, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2002), 70. ©2002 J. Paul Getty Trust.

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