As the summer of 1845 began to draw to a close, Henry joined his mother Lady Elisabeth in London to celebrate the 35th birthday of his half-sister Horatia. Making their way back to Lacock Abbey, Lady Elisabeth noted in her diary the “brilliant weather”. That probably explains why she also recorded the 6 September arrival from Reading of Nicolaas Henneman. By this time he was deeply involved in his own Talbotype business there but Henneman still maintained close contact with his former master. His visit probably came about in anticipation of the 8 September arrival of the Rev Calvert R Jones and his wife Anne.
Reverend Jones had only a minimal interest in the cloth or lost souls. A skilled marine painter, his enthusiasm for travel was satisfied by his close friendship with Henry’s Welsh cousin, Kit Talbot (described as the ‘wealthiest commoner in Britain’ and the owner of a fine sea-going yacht). Anne Jones was equally enamored of travel and was an accomplished artist herself. Calvert first took up the Daguerreotype but soon found that Talbot’s process on paper was a more congenial medium for an artist.
Although they stayed only a couple of days, the Joneses made good use of their time at Lacock. Calvert Jones and perhaps Nicolaas Henneman must be considered as possible co-authors of the “Talbotypes taken all day.” Although Lady Elisabeth groused about the heat, that didn’t stop her from posing for some of the photographs and the bright sunny weather was perfectly adapted to the calotype negatives’ tastes. We’ll be seeing more of the productions of 9 September 1845 in the future. Indeed, we must devote a great deal more time to Calvert & Anne, for they were critical to shaping Talbot’s art and Jones’s work forms an important part of the Catalogue Raisonné.
As it had for the nuns centuries before, the Cloisters of Lacock Abbey provided a peaceful shelter from the bustling activities of a country house. It was a great place to take photographs, shielded not only from curious eyes but also the winds that could disrupt the sometimes tens of seconds exposures. The Cloisters were large enough to admit the sunshine and in this case Talbot has very cleverly taken advantage of the shadows of the roofline to frame the picture. In the mid-20th century, it was common for photographers to ‘burn in’ the peripheries of the print – ie, to selectively add extra exposure during enlarging to darken them – in order to contain the viewer’s eye from wandering away from the important subject in the centre. The spectral response of the calotype negative has completed the task. Its silver compounds reacted mostly to blue light and could hardly see green; as a consequence, green foliage came out much darker than our eye perceives it, in this case the darkened ivy happily completing the framing of the couple.
The gentleman is undoubtedly Calvert Jones, as expansive in presence as he was short in physical stature. I used to think that the woman was Talbot’s wife Constance for the hairdo is one the she sometimes adopted. However, Constance was not particularly tall and I am now convinced that Calvert is enjoying a snack with his wife Anne, also an artist.
As is the case with so many things if life, the strengths of the calotype are another side of its weaknesses. The broadening of tone and the harmonizing of detail – the ‘Rembrandt’ effect – makes the prints from these negatives particularly appealing, more artistic if you will. But this also frustrates specific identifications. Above is a virtual print made from the original negative in hopes of teasing out as much detail as possible. The basket of Wiltshire produce is readily apparent and we can just make out a second basket behind Anne’s hands. The top hat poses a dilemma. Calvert clearly was not traveling with an opera hat, which could be collapsed and tucked under his chair. But placing it on the table as he appears to have done here was a faux pas, especially by exposing the inner silk lining to view. Lady Elisabeth must have been absent for this photograph, for her directorial eye would have caught this detail and her objections surely acted upon. Calvert’s slightly hooked nose emerges and we can just see the youthful countenance that Anne always maintained. They seem to be genuinely pleased with their visit.
Larry J Schaaf
• Questions or Comments? Please contact Prof Schaaf directly at firstname.lastname@example.org • Lady Elisabeth Feilding, 1845 Diary, The British Library, London, Fox Talbot Collection, Add MS 88942/5/2/40. • WHFT, Anne & Calvert Jones at Lacock Abbey, salt print from a calotype negative, 9 September 1845, The Richard Menschel Collection, courtesy of Hans P Kraus, Jr; Schaaf 221. • WHFT, Detail of Anne & Calvert Jones at Lacock Abbey, virtual print from the original waxed calotype negative in the National Media Museum, Bradford, 1937-2592; Schaaf 221.