1.13.2009

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Update: Many thanks to an anonymous commenter– who sounds very much like a curator in-the-know– for filling in much of the background information on this album. It is in fact not Constance's album– it is her sister Amy's, who was a 14-year old at the time. Read more interesting tidbits in the comments section...

The leaves of this album are somewhat tersely recorded as "albumen photomontage with watercolor embellishment, London, 1867, Constance Sackville West." Found within the fascinating online collections at George Eastman House, that venerable photo repository in Rochester, NY, the pages have no other commentary or curatorial insight. In my research as to who Constance was I've discovered that my ability to decipher British Peerage and hereditary lines is sorely limited. Other than knowing she had to have been a fairly close relative of notable Bloomsbury adventuress, Virginia Woolf paramour, gardener, and woman of letters, Vita Sackville-West, the album's creator was a mystery. It is possible that it was Constance Mary Elizabeth Cochrane-Baillie who married Reginald Windsor Sackville West (without the hyphen) in 1867. That would make the person who conceived these truly exceptional and endearingly odd tableaux a newly-married 21 year old. Possible.

Most of the characters gamboling on lawns and reclining at the shore (or whose disembodied heads bob amidst the clouds) form a roster of mid-nineteenth century bold-faced names and are are identified in Constance's hand. The Earl of Scarborough, the Marchioness of Huntley, the Queen of Naples, and the "Misses Bismarcks", among various other royal and social lights, are in her parade of notables.

This oblique view of Constance's daily circuit (croquet, hunting parties, lots of sitting–
a life lived as a series of tableaux vivants) makes the evidence of her agile imagination far more intriguing. It's interesting is that she had access to so many full-length photographs of friends posing–did they have photographing parties? What else did Constance do?

Addendum: Thanks to the wonderful Florizelle
who has pointed me toward another strikingly similar embellished photo album in the collection of the Musee d'Orsay. Georgiana Berkeley made her album around the same period as Sackville West (1860-70) and created witty dreamlike scenes interspersed with more typical portraits and mementos. It seems as though she and Constance would have moved in the same circles. I wonder how common a hobby this was? How many other albums disappeared, falling victim to vigorous housecleaning in some decade or other...

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Angela..you continue to inspire and delight ...just grand..continued thanks..rw

Florizelle said...

Mes meilleurs vœux, Angela, pour une
année 2009 aussi créative et gaie que l'album de Georgiana
http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/collections/index-of-works/notice.html?no_cache=1&ens=1&nnumid=25400&retouroeuvre=%252Fen%252Fcollections%252Findex-of-works%252Fnotice.html%253Fno_cache%253D1%2526nnumid%253D23638

angela said...

Oh-- I've posted an update with your find. Many thanks for the nice little gift of your comment!

damn said...

oh this will make me happy for years to come

I think I need to make an album like this...!

angela said...

Yes! I think you DO need to make an album like this.
And when does one get to see what kept you busy in France?

Robin said...

this is really cool! they look so modern-arty... (found this via things magazine)

Eireann said...

You might like to see the work of Gracia Haby and Louise Jennison, two Australian artists whose work reminds me of these:

http://www.gracialouise.com

Anonymous said...

The Constance Sackville West album is actually the work of Amy Cochrane-Baillie who was the sister of Constance. The confusion arises in the dedication at the front of the album but it was clearly given by Constance to Amy as a blank album. Amy was 14 at the time of the album and lived in the highly charged political salon of the 1st Lord Lamington in Wilton Crescent in the Belgravia area of London. All the annotations in the album were added later as many did not yet hold the titles at the time of the album. Amy was herself to marry an Italian nobleman and Senator, Francesco Maria Nobili VITELLESCHI. The similarity with the Georgiana Berkeley album held by the Musee D'Orsay has been noted.(her correct name is in fact Georgina!) It is worth noting that Georgina lived in Wilton Crescent at the same time. She was aged 36 and possibly a tutor or mentor to Amy. The Berkeley Album could possibly be the work of Julia Cavendish a much younger lady whose photo appears on a number of occasions in the album but prepared under the tutelege of Georgina.

tiptoe said...

From 2006, have you found cockled onion skin paper yet?


I too am hunting it down.

Thank you

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