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Zulu in Leopard Costume
Coated salt or light albumen print, from a wet collodion on glass negative
14.8 x 12.1 cm
Metropolitan Museum of Art
Purchase, Ross Family Fund Gift, 2006, Accession Number: 2006.591
Created in the UK.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a similar photograph taken presumably at the same sitting in the summer of 1853 (Accession Number: 2006.592) that is credited to Nicolaas Henneman.
Larry J Schaaf, 29 April 2017, "Aztecs, Ice Skating, & Miss Mitford’s Dog", The Talbot Catalogue Raisonne, blog
(Accessed: 16 March 2017)
In 1852, after performing at Cape Town, a group of thirteen Zulus was brought to London (with their promotor under bond to ensure that they were not being enslaved). As was common at the time, these human ‘novelties’ were put on public display for eager paying audiences. The Illustrated London News pictured them in woodcuts and observed that “the Zulus must be naturally good actors; for a performance more natural and less like acting is seldom if ever seen upon any stage.” Charles Dickens was impressed that “they are seen in an elegant theatre, fitted with appropriate scenery of great beauty…they are rather picturesque to the eye.” In Henneman’s photograph above, we see what the Illustrated London News identified as the “Zulu poet-laureate…who wears a leopard’s head and collar of tiger’s tails, when he chants the king’s praises.” None of Dickens’s appropriate scenery is present. The poet is performing in Henneman’s Regent Street studio, isolated by a plain backdrop, perhaps as a study for a woodcut or other hand-drawn art?
Illustrated London News, “The Zulu Kaffirs, at the St George’s Gallery, Knightsbridge”, v. 22, 28 May 1853, p. 410.
Charles Dickens, “The Noble Savage,” Household Words, v. 7 no. 168, 11 June 1853, pp. 337-339.
Illustrated London News, “Zulu Kaffirs”, v. 22, 21 May 1853, p. 399.