Overstone’s ‘Negromania’
Justness and justice at home and abroad
in Julia Margaret Cameron’s ‘fancy subjects’
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In 1867, Cameron photographed Governor Eyre of Jamaica and his chief defender, Thomas Carlyle, and exhibited these portraits at her German Gallery exhibition of 1868. At the same time, she rushed last minute prints into the exhibition that depicted refugees from the war in Abyssinia, re-enacting scenes of violence and aggression. This chapter links together the Jamaican insurrection and the Abyssinian War, while connecting her financial patron, Lord Overstone, and her nephew, Valentine Prinsep, in relation to the racism that dominated popular constructions of Africans who had been sent forcibly to Jamaica or who occupied desirable land that abutted the Red Sea. The chapter also analyzes these events in relation to her portraits of disguised English Orientalists who infiltrated colonial lands on behalf of the Empire. By uncovering Cameron’s reliance on cartoons from Punch to help her narrate these contentious debates visually, this chapter argues that Cameron created ambivalent and hybrid works: On the one hand, she celebrated imperial power and visualized its success in subjugating other peoples of the world, and on the other, she challenged the presumed superiority of the colonial condition, undermining its authority.

Julia Margaret Cameron’s ‘fancy subjects’

Photographic allegories of Victorian identity and empire

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