While there is absolutely no guarantee that, after over 14 years, I might be moving, it has become a distinct possibility. And suddenly I was overcome with nostalgia for a space that I still inhabit. Suddenly the walls and windows became very precious. This small apartment has soothed me and contained me in volatile combination; it is at the same time active expression and shell. I've pondered some of this "tyranny of things" before.
I took these photos over a year ago, and some things have changed since then, but then again, its all the same.
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...