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In his 1844-46 treatise on photography, The Pencil of Nature, William Henry Fox Talbot observed that “the whole cabinet of a Virtuoso” might be photographed, “the more strange and fantastic the forms . . . , the more advantage in having their pictures given instead of their descriptions. . . . However numerous the objects—however complicated the arrangement—the Camera depicts them all at once.”

Outside Lacock Abbey, temporary shelves, draped in black velvet, supported arrangements of objects relocated from indoors, not unlike a traditional museum exhibit. Lady Elisabeth, Talbot’s mother, obviously delighted in this idea. She supplied the fanciful title for The Milliner’s Window and most likely the caps and bonnets as well. Did this re-create a scene from her dressing room, reconstructed outdoors in order to have sufficient light? Two variations on this theme were published in 84.XO.1369.3The Pencil of Nature: Articles of China and Articles of Glass on Three Shelves.

Larry Schaaf, William Henry Fox Talbot, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2002), 78. ©2002 J. Paul Getty Trust.

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