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Julia Margaret Cameron
Albumen silver print, from glass negative
36.8 x 29.0 cm (14 1/2 x 11 7/16 in. )
Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Elisha Whittelsey Collection, The Elisha Whittelsey Fund, 1969, Accession Number:69.607.9
Curatorial description (Accessed: 21 Sept 2017)
In this photograph, modeled closely on a painting then attributed to the Italian Baroque artist Guido Reni, May Prinsep plays the role of Beatrice Cenci, a sixteenth-century Roman woman whose sad tale of rape, revenge, and execution was retold in a nineteenth-century play by Percy Bysshe Shelley. While Cameron’s portraits of “men great thro’ genius” had the built-in appeal of celebrity, her portraits of “women great thro’ love” most often depended upon literary, artistic, historical, or biblical allusion for broader commercial appeal.