© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Julia Margaret Cameron, British (Calcutta, India 1815 - 1879 Kalutara, Ceylon)
Vivien and Merlin
Other Titles
Series/Book Title: Illustrations to Tennyson's Idylls of the King and Other Poems
Work Type
Creation Place: Europe, United Kingdom
Physical Descriptions
Albumen silver print
image: 32 x 27 cm (12 5/8 x 10 5/8 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: on mount below image, recto, black ink, signed, in artist's hand: From Life Registered Photograph Copyright- Julia Margaret Cameron
Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., New York, New York, sold to Seiden & de Cuevas Inc., 1977.
Seiden & de Cuevas, Inc., New York, New York, purchased from Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, N, 1977, Gift to the Fogg Art Museum, 1982. on Long Term Loan to the Fogg Art Museum from 1977 to 1982
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Purchase through the generosity of Melvin R. Seiden
Object Number
European and American Art
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Label Text: 32Q: 2100 19th Century , written 2014
Cameron created mesmerizing portraits and figure studies based on literary and biblical sources. She was one of the first practitioners who sought to ennoble photography beyond mere description by combining, in her words, “the real and the ideal.” Vivien and Merlin was originally created at the poet Alfred Tennyson’s request, to illustrate a new edition of his Idylls of the King, a retelling of the legend of King Arthur. Cameron went on to produce a two-volume set of original prints, including this scene in which Vivien seduces Merlin in an attempt to charm him into revealing the secrets of his power. Cameron was highly skilled in selecting and posing models, accentuating gesture and gaze to convey emotion, and manipulating light and focus to create artistic yet naturalistic representations. She ultimately produced, by her count, hundreds of exposures of her family and friends posed as living embodiments of the book’s moralizing poems.

Publication History

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), 295

Exhibition History

New Presences at the Fogg, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1978 - 11/28/1978

New Presences in the Fogg Museum, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1978 - 11/28/1978

The Age of Romanticism, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 03/15/1986 - 05/18/1986

Chasing Shadows, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/21/1995 - 04/02/1995

HAA 1 Survey Course: Survey of World Art: Reproduction/Production, Harvard University Art Museums, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/29/2005 - 04/10/2005

HAA 10 Survey Course (S421): The Western Tradition: Art Since the Renaissance (Fall 10 Rotation 3), Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 11/12/2010 - 01/15/2011

32Q: 2100 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 03/04/2015

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu