British photographic history

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Research: British or French Nude albumen photo

I am asking members here for help in identifying this nude albumen photo. 20 x 16.5 cm oval print laid onto stiff card, with an ink inscription lower right: Octavie.

This came from a British album recently purchased in Derbyshire, containing hundreds of erotic albumen prints of paintings and sculptures, all female nudes. This was the only "from life' print, save for some later "Zulu" Nude photos.

I can imagine a Gentleman in his grand country house keeping this in a locked drawer in the library, for his own perusal!

A lovely photo, I think, especially with the crown and cross necklace. The seller thought that 'Octavie' may be a sly, almost anagram of "Victoria".  I'm not so sure, My thought was a classic Greek or Roman allegory, but then the cross makes no sense. I haven't figured out the name Octavie...

I believe it to be 1860's-70's, but have not found a similar image from either England or France. It seems to my eye to be too stiff and formal to be a French nude.

I rely on the wealth of knowledge here to help with conjectures...

Many thanks in advance, 


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Comment by David McGreevy on June 20, 2016 at 23:13

Denis, Point well taken!   Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition either...

Meanwhile, I cannot find any of Thiebault's stereos online... might you have a link to some?


Comment by Denis Pellerin on June 20, 2016 at 22:51

Nobody thinks of looking at stereos for clues. Big mistake (ha ha). There is more than meets the two eyes in stereos, a lot more.

Comment by David McGreevy on June 20, 2016 at 21:41

Hi Denis,  Not disappointed at all. I'm thrilled to have an identification so quickly!

I never considered looking at stereo views for clues to the props.  Lesson Learned.

Thanks again, 

Best, David

Comment by Denis Pellerin on June 20, 2016 at 16:25

Hi David. Sorry to disappoint you but the photo is of French origin. The girl, the mirror and the crown appear is several stereos by Pierre Eugene Thiebault, who had a studio in Saint-Denis, near Paris, at some point in his career. The model is usually wearing more clothes in the stereos but there is no mistaking the mirror and the crown which are some of Thiebault's most common props. Thiebault spent some time in prison on account of his photos of scantily dressed young ladies, as did quite a few of his colleagues. Octavie is by no means an anagram of Victoria but a proper French name which, although it has totally disappeared nowadays, was quite common in France in the 19th century. It is the feminine form of Octave (Octavius).

Comment by David McGreevy on June 20, 2016 at 16:16

Thank you, Alex!

Comment by Alex Harris on June 20, 2016 at 14:03

Hi David,  the hairstyle was also reminiscent to me of a young Victoria;  album purchased in Hampshire,  although where it originated is a mystery.  The other Octavie (without the mirror) is just listed on Ebay( 19.6.16) together with some Zulu ladies from the album.  kind regards Alex

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