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Research: South Kensington Museum Albumen photo

Greetings. I am looking for information about this albumen photo, a student art room at the South Kensington Museum, which became part of the V&A. It has a Letterpress description, and the blindstamps of both the museum (Loan), and of the photographers Cundall and Downes.

The V&A has an exact copy, and the photographer is listed as Cundall and Downes, with a date of 1860. Although Cundall could very well have been the photographer, I believe that the Cundall and Downes stamp is only an indication that they were the publishers.

Would anyone be able to help teach down who the actual photographer was?

Many thanks in advance,

David

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Comment by Ken Jacobson on July 20, 2016 at 12:25

Dear David,

I would be surprised if CT Thompson did not have more than one camera over his career or even during the same time period. I'm fairly certain I've seen different size prints by Thompson. I personally would not be concerned about different sizes from two different series, especially when one was taken c.1853–1855 and the other was made c.1860–1863. Thompson prints might turn up in a complete album or published book but could also emerge as single prints.

Best,

Ken

Comment by David McGreevy on July 17, 2016 at 23:37

Thank you, Michael, I will definitely check "A Higher Branch of Art" !

Best, David

Comment by David McGreevy on July 17, 2016 at 23:26

Dear Ken,

After looking at Thompson's photos in the V & A website, I have to agree with you, that he may be the photographer.

His use of careful lighting, especially his compositions that often uses a diagonal line of light from top right to center left, is evocative of this image, My only question now is about the size, mine appears to be a bit smaller than the ones at the V & A.

My copy of this photo does not appear to have ever been bound into an album, rather, it seems to have been part of a portfolio of loose prints.

Do you have any indication of a smaller portfolio being published?

Best, 

David

Comment by Michael Pritchard on July 17, 2016 at 17:26

Anthony Hamber's book A Higher Branch of the Art might help. It looks in part at the South Kensington museum photography department.

Comment by David McGreevy on July 17, 2016 at 15:51

Thank you, Ken, most interesting research. I will delve into The Thompson connection!

Bes, David

Comment by Richard Sullivan HonFRPS on July 17, 2016 at 15:48

David,

After a bit more searching I have found many hits, perhaps 50 or more. Mr. Cundall seems to have been quite active as a photographer and seems to have some connection to Talbot. Sparling, Fenton's assistant, wrote a book on wet plate in '56 and mentions Cundall several times. Surprisingly a J. Tudor Cundall shows up in '03 doing a demo at the RPS. That's stretching it a bit, but thinly possible, but I suspect he's a son. Cundall was not only a photographer, but a noted technical expert, who would be quoted. He is also noted as having a B. Sc. which was not trivial in the early 1800's. 

--Dick Sullivan

Comment by David McGreevy on July 17, 2016 at 13:21

Thanks so much Richard, You have me convinced that the photographer was indeed Cundall.

Many thanks, David

Comment by Ken Jacobson on July 17, 2016 at 12:02

Dear David,

Both Cundall and Downes were photographers but like many early photographers they were also publishers. Cundall trained as a printer and he in particular had a strong history of publishing both before and after 1860. In the early 1860s, the firm did not always mention their photographers but were less reticent than many, for example, crediting Captain Impey and others in their ambitious illustrated travel books.

Anthony Hamber (A Higher Branch of the Art, 1996, p. 411) has a good detailed account of the complicated arrangements at the South Kensington Museum for the sale of photographs of works of art. He talks in particular about C. Thurston Thompson and mentions that his photographs were often so popular that they were republished by Cundall & Downes. In fact, a detailed advertisement in the Athenaeum on 11 May 1864 announces that Cundall & Downes were to publish 3 series of Raphael cartoons and other art works taken by C. Thurston Thompson.

Thompson was a splendid photographer of interiors and the photograph you show looks to be a brilliantly lit effort. The V & A has one of the best collections of Thompson interiors, particularly those taken at international exhibitions. Though it is purely speculative, perhaps C.T. Thompson is good a candidate for photographer of your student art room.

Best,

Ken Jacobson

Comment by Richard Sullivan HonFRPS on July 14, 2016 at 4:35

Sorry to post again.

Cundall was in 1860 a member of the Photographic Society of London, but not a "Life" member. The RPS might be of some help.

--Dick Sullivan

Comment by Richard Sullivan HonFRPS on July 14, 2016 at 4:13

I found what I believe what was his address:

Cundall, Joseph, Esq., 17 Carlton Hill East, St.
John's Wood, N AV.

I am not familiar with what appears to be a London address. You might give him a ring.

--Dick Sullivan HonFRPs

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