Missing Ruskin Photographs Discovered

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The largest collection of daguerreotypes of Venice in the world--and probably the earliest surviving photographs of the Alps--have been officially confirmed as taken by John Ruskin, the famous 19th-century art critic, writer, and artist.

The photographs were uncovered at Cumbrian auction house Penrith Farmers’ & Kidd’s PLC in 2006 by photographic dealers Ken and Jenny Jacobson. The daguerreotypes sold for £75,000 after an original estimate of just £80. Following extensive conservation and research over the next eight years, the Jacobsons were able to confirm that the daguerreotypes were indeed photographed by Ruskin.

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The Jacobsons published a book yesterday with Bernard Quaritch about their remarkable discovery. Entitled Carrying Off the Palaces: John Ruskin’s Lost Daguerreotypes, the book contains all 325 known Ruskin daguerreotypes. Many of the photographs discovered by the Jacobsons appear in print for the first time with this publication. The book also explores Ruskin’s complicated relationship with the new photographic arts in the 19th century.

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At the book launch yesterday Ken Jacobson said, “The discovery of 188 previously unknown John Ruskin daguerreotypes has been the most exciting of our career. The propitious circumstances of this find were truly magnified many times over by the fascinating discoveries we made during our research and the generosity, intelligence and friendship we shared with other scholars and our conservators.
 
We feel that the quality and unorthodox style of many of Ruskin’s daguerreotypes will come as a major surprise to both photographic historians and those in the field of Ruskin scholarship. It is an astonishing accomplishment for a polymath better known for his achievements in so many other disciplines. Ruskin’s daguerreotypes would be a sensational new revelation in the history of photography even if he were completely unknown. We hope the work will be as intriguing to others as it has been to us.”
 
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Images: Courtesy of Bernard Quaritch.
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