Ruskin's daguerreotypes

The Frenchman. Venice. The Grand Canal. The Casa d'Oro Under Restoration, 1845. Quarter-plate daguerreotype. Image copyright Bernard Quaritch Ltd

In 2006 a set of daguerreotypes which it was believed were once owned by, and in the main taken by, the 19th Century critic John Ruskin were sold at auction. Those images have now been published in a book and their provenance confirmed.

The pictures were taken in Italy, France and Switzerland around 1850. There are several of Venice, and what are believed to be the the earliest surviving photographs of the Alps.

Collectors Ken and Jenny Jacobson have spent years preserving the pictures which were purchased from the Cumbrian auction house Penrith Farmers' & Kidd's PLC for £75,000, from an original estimate of just £80.

Mr Jacobson described the find of the 188 previously unknown pictures as the most exciting of their career.

"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.

"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."

The daguerreotype process was introduced in 1839 and resulted in a one-off picture held on a metal plate. It was widely used in the early years of photography due to the quality of the images and in part due to patent restrictions on other processes.

However the fact that each image was unique and indeed easily damaged, meant that within 20 years it began to lose favour, though some dedicated enthusiasts produce them today.

Carrying Off the Palaces: John Ruskin's Lost Daguerreotypes is published by Bernard Quaritch Ltd and contains all 325 of the known John Ruskin daguerreotypes and includes many which have not been seen before.

Image copyright © K. & J. Jacobson
Image caption John Ruskin and Le Cavalier Iller. Venice. The Ducal Palace, the Zecca and the Campanile with Moored Ships in Foreground, c.1851. Half-plate daguerreotype.
Image copyright © K. & J. Jacobson
Image caption John Ruskin and John Hobbs. Venice. The Ducal Palace South-East Angle. Noah's Vine, detail, c.1849-1852. Quarter-plate daguerreotype.
Image copyright © K. & J. Jacobson
Image caption John Ruskin and Le Cavalier Iller. Venice. Palazzo Gritti-Badoer with Laundry, c.1846-1852. Half-plate daguerreotype.

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