One By One

Oscar-1

In a recent post I highlighted the difference between an illustration and a photograph of Oscar Wilde in the same pose—the result being that the photograph was the more authentic.

But what happens when there are differences between two versions of the same photograph?

In this case the image is Sarony No. 1—the famous iconic headshot of Wilde. The one on the right is the more familiar, but they do not quite look the same.

Which one is a good egg, and which one is a Wilde goose chase? Let us take a gander.


Continue reading One By One

False Bottom

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, January 21, 1882. The caption to the full page reads: Oscar Wilde, the Apostle of Aestheticism—From a Photograph by Sarony, and Sketches by a Staff Artist.

Here we see an illustration from Frank Leslie’s newspaper showing Oscar Wilde in a pose reminiscent of those taken by Napoleon Sarony.

Scholars were never quite sure whether the caption to this sketch which says “From a Photograph by Sarony” meant that the illustration was from Sarony (in the sense of an artist’s impression of similar poses) or was a direct copy of an actual photograph of this particular pose.

One view favored was the former: i.e. that the whole illustration was an invention. One reason for this (apart from the fact that no photograph was known to exist) was that the bottom of the coat did not quite look right—it was too skirt-like. And further, the illustration shows Wilde wearing dress shoes, while in the photographs the only shoes we see are Oscar’s patent pumps. Indeed, all of the Sarony photographs of Wilde standing in an outer garment, are three-quarter length.

However, with the re-emergence of Sarony 3A, we now know the latter is the case, and the photograph has taken its place among the list of known Sarony photographs of Oscar Wilde. We can now see that the illustration and photograph are identical.

Identical, that is, apart from that lingering anomaly of the full-length sketch vs. the three-quarter length photograph. The question is: do these feet belong to Oscar or the illustrator? In other words, has the photograph been cropped or does the sketch have a false bottom?

A little more research can clear this up and it is almost certainly true that the lower portion of the illustration is an invention of the artist.

Take a look at Wilde’s coat in Sarony number 8, below: as you will see, it does not have a fur border at the hem as depicted in the sketch.

Mounted Sarony number 8 showing the coat without a fur hem.

Sarony 3A

New Sarony Photograph Identified

A rarely seen image of Oscar Wilde has recently been added to the series of photographs taken by Napoleon Sarony on January 5th, 1882.

Its rarity is evidenced by the fact that it does not appear to have been been published in any publicly available print medium to date, nor anywhere else previously online.

However, a proof print of it has lain dormant in the extensive Wilde holdings of the Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin—in the James McNeill Whistler collection to be precise—and their copy might be the only extant print.

Let us see how this photograph re-emerged and how it affects the total count of known Sarony images of Oscar Wilde, let’s start the ball rolling.

Continue reading Sarony 3A

The Rest Is History

Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony, 1882

There is a pleasing symmetry in the idea of the flamboyant Napoleon Sarony photographing Oscar Wilde because they were both specialists in posing—albeit from opposing ends of the camera. So it is not surprising that they also had parallel views about it.

Continue reading The Rest Is History

Web Site Upgrade

Ariadne
BACK TO THE BLOG

Apologies for the hiatus from writing articles for this blog while I took time out to attend to two parallel projects.

First is my historical archive which was in need of an update to latest web standards and to address improvements to usability. Click on this link to Oscar Wilde In America to visit the new site.

Also the interim I contributed a major article to the latest edition of the academic journal The Wildean, the flagship publication of the Oscar Wilde Society.  The article featured for the time ever in print all known photographs of Oscar Wilde taken by Napoleon Sarony in 1882 and 1883, as well as correcting existing and supplemented much new information about them. You can obtain copies of the journal from the Oscar Wilde Society here.

‍The signature image of the web site has been W.B. Richmond’s ‍”Electra ‍at ‍the ‍Tomb ‍of ‍Agamemnon” ‍(1874) shown at the top of this page—a work ‍that ‍Wilde ‍had ‍described ‍in ‍detail ‍in ‍his ‍review ‍of ‍its ‍showing ‍at ‍the ‍Grosvenor ‍Gallery ‍in ‍London [1].

The painting was the inspiration for a cartoon ‍used as a centerpiece ‍to ‍a ‍fake ‍interview ‍with ‍Wilde in Punch magazine, ‍the ‍purpose ‍of ‍which ‍was ‍to ‍ridicule ‍the ‍Aesthetic ‍Movement ‍that ‍Wilde ‍went ‍to ‍America ‍to ‍espouse. ‍It depicts ‍the ‍Greek ‍goddess ‍Ariadne representing ‍the ‍grief ‍of ‍Aestheticism ‍as ‍she ‍watches ‍Wilde ‍depart ‍aboard ‍the ‍ship ‍Arizona.

More on the web site here about ARIADNE IN NAXOS.

The web site upgrade is timely as it comes at conclusion of a ten year project of verifying and documenting Oscar Wilde’s lecture tour, which  I shall feature in a separate blog article in the new year.

The web site also contains much ‍historical ‍information ‍relating ‍to ‍Wilde’s ‍time ‍in ‍America: ‍works, ‍features, ‍lecture subjects, ‍quotations, ‍interviews, ‍and more.

Please visit the site and let me know of any errata. There are bound to be many as I have only one pair of eyes.

© John Cooper, December 2019


[1] “The Grosvenor Gallery” Dublin University Magazine, 90, July 1877, 118-26.


Back To The Wall

In a recent post I noted how Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt had stood in precisely the same spot when having their photographs taken by Napoleon Sarony.

It was just a curiosity; but now Lillie Langtry makes it a mystery.

Continue reading Back To The Wall

Twenty-seven

27N-1.jpg
Sarony photograph number 27 taken when Wilde was 27.

Oscar Wilde was 27 years of age when left England for America on board the S.S. Arizona. By the time he reached New York eight days later he was 26—this being the age he insisted upon in press interviews. [1]

A simple mistake for anyone to make who was awful at arithmetic or a victim to vanity; but it takes a declared genius to incorporate the error years later into his works, as we shall see.

Continue reading Twenty-seven

The Last Four

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 9.46.47 PM

The Sarony Photographs

It has long been assumed that all of the 1882 photographs of Oscar Wilde by Napoleon Sarony were taken during the same visit to his studio. Indeed, in all of Wilde studies there does not appear to be any record of an assertion to the contrary.

However, there is a convincing case to be made that the LAST FOUR photographs were taken at a later date.

Continue reading The Last Four

Same Difference

same-spot.jpg

Here is an idle curiosity.

When Oscar Wilde had this photograph taken by Napoleon Sarony in 1882, not only was he standing against the same wall that Sarah Bernhardt had stood against—but he was standing in EXACTLY the same spot.

Continue reading Same Difference