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victorian review • Volume 34 Number 2 246 also hitherto unknown photographs of and by Stillman, notably one of him in a cowboy-like hat from an album owned by Cathy Hueffer. In illuminating Spartali Stillman, Elliott accomplishes considerably more, for every chapter resonates with new information, such as, for example, writer Vernon Lee’s friendship with Spartali Stillman.The only area that still invites further development is the final chapter on Spartali Stillman’s artistic accomplishments ; while this section is useful, it could be expanded to include a more probing analysis of her themes and their iconological, personal, and other meanings. But this is a minor flaw in an otherwise outstanding book, undoubtedly the fruit of many years of labour. Susa n P. Caster as University of Washington • Women’s Albums and Photography in Victorian England: Ladies,Mothers and Flirts by Patrizia Di Bello; pp. ix + 183. Burlington,VT, and Aldershot:Ashgate, 2007. $99.95 cloth. Patrizia Di Bello traces her book’s inspiration to“Lady Filmer in her Drawing Room,” a mixed-media collage in which figures cut from photographic prints are arranged against a colourful backdrop.At first sight, the page from an 1860s album“evoked not the usual image ofVictorian femininity, uptight and correct, but … a David Hockney design for the production of an OscarWilde play” (1). Previous scholars have been intrigued by the apparently modern aesthetics of someVictorian women’s photograph albums, but Di Bello is the first to outline an interdisciplinary theoretical framework argued from close readings of specific albums, while locating the activity within the broader material and visual culture.Applying “visual and historical analysis informed by feminist (art) history and psychoanalysis” (22) to a revisionary reading of women’s albums produced between 1850 and 1870, Di Bello animates the stiff poses and restores the colour toVictorian domestic photography to show how women used albums to mediate their diverse experiences of modernity as “Ladies, Mothers and Flirts.” Scholarship has done much to promote innovative Victorian women photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron and Lady Clementina Hawarden. Di Bello’s subject is rather the upper-class and upwardly mobile middle-class women who collected, exchanged, and displayed personal photographs— usually portraits—in albums before the Kodak system democratized amateur photography in the late 1880s.There are practical obstacles to such research: albums have often been broken up, or lack reliable information about provenance , evolution, and reception. However, the privileging of albums associated with relatively high-profile genteel women has a rationale beyond available 247 Reviews biographical evidence. In arguing for the“lady” as a shaper of the wider visual culture, from the annuals’ aristocratic beauties to QueenVictoria’s use of royal portraits in public relations, Di Bello presents a nuanced model of women’s cultural activity in which consumption and creative agency are interdependent and the“lady’s touch” is transformative.Victorian scholarship still makes largely documentary and illustrative use of photographs, but Di Bello urges that we look at the“desires and aspirations—rather than actualities … imagined and made visible through the family album” (22).This emphasis on photographs as dream-projections is reflected in an attention to tactile as well as visual qualities and a concentration on primary sources“that I kept feeling touched by” (2–3).The pun on touch is instructive: in Di Bello’s view, the photographic print’s indexicality—the portrait understood as emanating from the subject’s body, allowing imaginative contact between subject and viewer unmediated by the artist’s hand—gives an affective and erotic charge to handling prints and albums. The conflicted motives associated with this occult corporeality are most obvious in the surprising violence of aspects of this genteel, feminine accomplishment—portraits cut and recontextualised, prints torn from albums for exhibition.The emphasis on fantasy produces many of the book’s best insights and most enjoyable incidental pleasures, such as the blurring of distinctions between celebrities and the mass public in the personal and commercial circulation of carte-de-visite photographs. Chapter 2 explores the pre-photographic context of genteel collecting, feminine accomplishments, and taste in relation to Anna Birkbeck’s early nineteenth-century manuscript album. Detailed analysis of the album is subordinated to broad...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 246-248
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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