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 doesnot have a fur border at the hem as depicted in the sketch.
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.
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.
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 .
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.
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.
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. 
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.
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.
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.