# 36427

MOFFAT, John (1819-1894)

Kossuth Lajos, Hungarian freedom fighter, statesman and orator : stereoscopic portrait. Edinburgh, 1856-57.

$700.00 AUD

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Stereoscopic albumen print photograph, each image 75 x 64 mm (arched-top format), on cream-coloured card mount 85 x 173 mm, with blind stamp of ‘Lennie / 46 Princes St. / Edinburgh’; verso with facsimile signature of the sitter ‘Kossuth’, and with the original Scots-Australian owner’s name in pencil ‘McMillan’; the albumen prints are both crisp images with good tonal range; the left-hand print has a tiny scratch at its right edge, otherwise both prints are in excellent condition; the verso of the mount has some light stains and foxing.

A rare stereoscopic portrait of the celebrated Hungarian politician Kossuth Lajos (1802-1894), leader of Hungary’s struggle for independence from Austria in the late 1840s and later a celebrated orator in Europe, Britain and North America. It was taken in Edinburgh during Kossuth’s extensive lecture tour of Scotland in 1856-57, where Kossuth was regarded as a heroic and inspirational figure.

The portrait 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. Lennie’s business premises were at 46 Princes Street from 1856.

A later carte de visite taken from Moffat’s earlier stereoscopic portrait was published by Samuel Poulton (see NPG Ax46267).

As a matter of coincidence, around the same time that Kossuth was conducting his Scottish tour, one of his compatriots was trying to establish himself as a photographer in Edinburgh:

Iván Szabό (born 1822) was a photographer from Marosvásárhely, present-day Târgu Mureş in Transylvania. In 1849, after getting involved in a political conflict in his home country, he settled in St Andrews. Following his arrival, he taught languages at Madras College while studying photography and the photographic calotype process with local photographer Thomas Rodger. Szabό opened his first studio in 1857 after moving to Edinburgh. He died shortly after in 1858. Despite the success he experienced during his lifetime, he remains almost entirely forgotten as a photographer.‘ (University of St. Andrews)

Although we can find no evidence that Kossuth was photographed by Szabό, it would not be at all surprising, given the circumstances, if the two men had at least met, either in St. Andrews or Edinburgh.

This stereocard was sourced in Melbourne as part of a group of stereoscopic photographs – clearly all by the same photographer and taken around the same time – which had originally been 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.