On January 30, 1839, just days after William Henry Fox Talbot first displayed his photographs to the public, he modestly wrote in the Literary Gazette that “I only claim to have based this new Art upon a secure foundation: it will be for more skilful hands than mine to rear the superstructure.” In the few years between that statement and the taking of this picture, he had grown enormously as an artist; in many ways, more skillful hands did not exist in photography. But he never lost his wish to inspire others to take the art beyond where he had. One of his first and most loyal disciples was the Reverend Calvert R. Jones.

Jones and his wife, Anne, stayed at Lacock Abbey in September 1845, and it was almost certainly during this visit that this photograph was made. As was typical of his day, Talbot saw little need to identify the particular author of a work and did so only rarely, even for himself. He purchased negatives (many from Jones), and then had Nicolaas Henneman, his former assistant, print these at the Reading Establishment, his photographic printing firm. Talbot would hold onto some of this prints for his own purposes while others would be sold to the public. When Henneman’s business closed in the 1850s, his remaining stock of negatives and prints was returned to Talbot at Lacock Abbey. Some of these parcels remained unopened for more than a century.

Although taken at Talbot’s home, stylistically this picture belongs to Jones. Some of the characters appear in other of his images from Wales. It seems logical to assume that this was the product of joint authorship, the very sort of collaboration that Talbot would have hoped for.

Adapted from Larry Schaaf, William Henry Fox Talbot, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2002), 92. ©2002 J. Paul Getty Trust.


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