In Victorian England, marriage was regarded as a cornerstone of society. For Julia Margaret Cameron, it was perceived as the ultimate earthly union. In letters to her sons she repeatedly mentioned their marital status and outlined her expectations of them. To her third son, Hardinge Hay (1846-1911), she wrote in 1873, “You should seek all the advantages of social and intellectual life in England and seek the opportunity of being amongst those women . . . whom you might love and might wish to marry.
In November 1869 Cameron’s second son, Ewen Wrottesley Hay (1841-1888), married Annie Chinery (born about 1851, death date unknown), the daughter of a prominent doctor on the Isle of Wight. The union was celebrated in a number of prenuptial portraits of the bride-to-be, including a stunning full-length study of her attired in her wedding finery. Annie was Cameron’s first daughter-in-law and was eagerly seized upon both maternally and photographically by her new mother-in-law. In Cameron’s portraits she is presented in various guises, but always as the progenitor of a new generation of Camerons, descended from the distinguished female Pattle line. Cameron enthusiastically sent prints to friends and relatives and, as if to emphasize divine intercession in family life, inscribed this portrait “God’s gift to us.”
Soon after their marriage, Ewen and Annie moved to Ceylon to pursue a livelihood on the family-owned coffee plantations. In an 1871 letter to Hardinge, who was also living in Ceylon, Cameron expressed her maternal feelings once more: “Every hour of every day I rejoice in the pure and happy marriage which has secured to Ewen his Treasure and I only yearn and long for the time when you be equally blessed.” Ironically, in Ceylon, Cameron’s closeness with Annie was brought to an end by the latter’s determined resistance to Cameron’s endless demands on her son.
Julian Cox. Julia Margaret Cameron, In Focus: From the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1996), 76. ©1996 The J. Paul Getty Museum.
Medium: Albumen silver print
Dimensions: 31.3 × 24.1 cm (12 5/16 × 9 1/2 in.)
Object Number: 84.XM.349.8
Place Created: Freshwater, Isle of Wight, England
Inscription: Inscription: Titled and inscribed on recto mount in ink: 'From Life registered photograph copyright' and 'With much love (For the mother of many sweet daughters) I send this record of the cherished child - wife married to my Ewen in 18th year'.
Markings: Markings: Colnaghi blindstamp.
Signed: Signed and dated on recto mount in ink.
Attribution: Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program