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Sights of Wonder: online exhibition

Friday 12 June 2020 (00:00) - Saturday 12 June 2021 (00:00)

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts

'The Sphinx, the Great Pyramid and two lesser Pyramids, Ghizeh, Egypt' (credit Francis Bedford, 1862). Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020
Francis Bedford, ‘The Sphinx, the Great Pyramid and two lesser Pyramids, Ghizeh, Egypt’ (1862). Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020.

Pyramids, temples, sphinxes and shrines: breathtaking images of these ancient and often iconic landmarks, captured by pioneering photographer Francis Bedford, provided new insights for Victorians into the historic and biblical sites of the eastern Mediterranean. Generously lent by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, these remarkable photographs from the Royal Collection feature in the first exclusively web-based exhibition curated at the Barber.

Bedford (1815 – 1894) accompanied Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII), who in 1862 was dispatched by his mother, Queen Victoria, on a four-month journey through Egypt, the Holy Land and Greece. The odyssey was intended to introduce the prince to ancient and contemporary civilisations, cultures and political figures – contributing to his education as future king and ruler of the British Empire.

The first photographer ever to accompany a royal tour, Bedford exhibited these exquisite examples of early photography soon after his return, to great acclaim. They brought to life for the British public sites previously only encountered in prints and paintings, and the Barber’s display considers the perception of these cultures and of the concept of empire during the Victorian era.

The photographs are complemented here by an extract from the prince’s own handwritten journal, contemporary commentary from illustrated newspapers and magazines, and drawings by Lawrence Alma-Tadema from the University’s Cadbury Research Library.

This is the third exhibition in an exciting annual collaboration between Royal Collection Trust, the Barber, and by the 2019/20 cohort of ten MA Art History and Curating students at the University of Birmingham.

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