MOFFAT, John (1819-1894)
Henry, Lord Brougham, statesman : signed stereoscopic portrait. Edinburgh, 1856-57.
Stereoscopic albumen print photograph, each image 73 x 63 mm (arched-top format), on yellow card mount 83 x 173 mm, with blind stamp of ‘Lennie / 46 Princes St. / Edinburgh’; verso signed in ink by the sitter ‘Henry Brougham’, and with the original Scots-Australian owner’s name in pencil ‘McMillan’; the albumen prints have excellent clarity and tonal range, and are in very good condition (a light surface mark on the right-hand image); the mount is clean.
A rare signed photographic portrait of Edinburgh-born statesman, Henry Peter Brougham, later 1st Baron Brougham and Vaux, (1778-1868), who served as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain and played a prominent role in the passing the 1832 Reform Act and 1833 Slavery Abolition Act. Brougham was also a Fellow of the Royal Society, having studied science and mathematics at the University of Edinburgh – where he was regarded as something of a prodigy – prior to undertaking law, and for many years he was a major contributor of scientific (as well as political) papers to the Edinburgh Review.
The photograph was taken by pioneer Scottish photographer John Moffat (1819-1894) in his studio at 19 Princes Street, Edinburgh, in 1856-57, and was sold by Moffat’s neighbour, the optician John Lennie, whose business premises were at 46 Princes Street from 1856. (John Lennie joined the Photographic Society of Scotland in 1856 and joined Edinburgh Photographic Society in 1861). Coincidentally, Brougham’s first scientific paper – read before the Royal Society when he was just sixteen – was in the field of optics.
We can trace no other example of this portrait of Lord Brougham in institutional collections. Although Brougham was a frequently photographed public figure, and a hugely popular subject with carte de visite publishers in the 1860s, this is a relatively early photographic portrait of him, taken in his native city and made all the more desirable for the fact that it bears his original autograph.
The reason we have dated this photograph to around 1856 or 1857 is due to it having been sourced with a group of stereoscopic photographs – clearly all by the same photographer and taken around the same time – which included a signed portrait of Hungarian revolutionary, statesman and orator Lajos Kossuth (1802-1894), taken in Edinburgh by John Moffat during Kossuth’s lecture tour of Scotland in 1856-57.
These stereoviews were sourced in Melbourne, and were originally acquired by a Scots-Australian named McMillan; all of the backs bear his discreet ownership signature in pencil. We believe this is likely to be Dr. Thomas Law McMillan, who received his medical degree from the University of Edinburgh in 1850 and then made his way to Australia via America, working his passage as a ship’s surgeon. He arrived in Port Phillip in February 1853 during the early phase of the first Australian gold rush. After a period seeking his fortune on the Central Victorian goldfields, McMillan returned to medicine and worked as a doctor in Geelong and Melbourne, where he became President of the Medical Society of Victoria. These facts provide a plausible explanation as to why the subjects of the stereoscopic photographs McMillan acquired – presumably on a visit home to Edinburgh in the second half of the 1850s – are, in the main, prominent Scottish figures in the fields of medicine and science (while Lajos Kossuth, of course, was a hero to every Scot with nationalist leanings). Furthermore, the Australian stereoscopic views from the same collection, similarly inscribed McMillan, date from the early 1860s and are mostly of Central Victorian goldfields subjects, a fact which also neatly dovetails with the Thomas Law McMillan hypothesis.