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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Mary Rosse

Names:
Born: Mary Field 
Other: Countess Mary of Rosse 
Other: Lady Rosse 
Other: Mary, Countess of Rosse 
Dates:  1813 - 1885
Active:  Ireland
 
  

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Approved biography for Mary Rosse
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

 
  
In nineteenth-century Europe, serious amateur scientific installations were highly valued, especially in the field of astronomy. Birr Castle, in Ireland, contained one of the most important. William Parsons, the Earl of Rosse, had built there the largest telescope in the world, one familiarly known as “The Leviathan,” and his wife, Mary, née Field, had participated in its design and construction. Lord Rosse had started daguerreotyping in 1842 and had known Talbot through scientific circles. In 1853, when Mary, Countess of Rosse, was expecting her eleventh child, she decided it was time to take up photography herself. Earl Rosse wrote to Talbot on February 2, 1854, “Lady Rosse has just commenced photography, and I enclose a few specimens of her first attempts.” Talbot replied that he was highly impressed with her “details of the telescope which are all that can be desired.” Lady Rosse’s work was from waxed-paper negatives, a process in which she was soon to be an expert and one she continued to favor. She became a member of the Dublin Photographic Society in 1856 and received a silver medal “for the best paper negative” from the Photographic Society of Ireland in 1859. Mary Rosse’s library contained at least three books on the waxed-paper process and an original of Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature. Birr Castle is unusual in that large parts of its heritage, including significant relics from Mary Rosse’s photographic activities, survive to this day. 
  
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
  
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
  
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
  
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Antoine Claudet
Mary Countess of Rosse 
n.d.
 
  
Family history 
  
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