John Singer Sargent (1856-1925)
“Lady Agnew of Lochna” (1892-1893)
Oil on canvas
Located in the Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland
Andrew Noel Agnew, a barrister who had inherited the baronetcy and estates of Lochnaw in Galloway, commissioned this painting of his young wife, Gertrude Vernon (1865-1932), in 1892. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1898 and put Sargent on the map. The sculptor Auguste Rodin described him as ‘the Van Dyck of our times.’ Portrait commissions poured in and Sargent enjoyed something of a cult following in Edwardian society. It also launched Lady Agnew as a society beauty.
As part of our second placement at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Ali and I have been digitising stereograms. These images, when viewed through a stereoscope, appear three-dimensional. This is a comical highlight of the images we were photographing - ‘Footsteps - “My Wife! Mum’s the Word!”’. This image belongs to a series of twelve images in which the husband seduces the pastry chef, the wife catches him (via the flour handprints depicted) and the pastry chef being replaced by an ugly old woman.
These shots show the preparatory work for miniature photography. We are testing different techniques to get the best results - adjusting the aperture of the camera, the studio lighting and the softness of the light. Due to the variety of the media, finding suitable settings to capture them all proved difficult.
We discovered that the combination of a few sheets of tracing paper to diffuse the flash, having the lights at different heights and strengths, and focusing the camera using a smaller aperture meant we could capture the majority of the miniatures.
Due to the success of our preparatory work, within the next few weeks these complex objects will be added to our digitisation batch lists. So watch out for more miniatures in the future!