Sir Richard Francis Burton
Sir Richard Francis Burton
by Ernest Edwards, published by Alfred William Bennett
albumen print, published 1865 (April 1865)
3 3/8 in. x 2 5/8 in. (87 mm x 68 mm) image size
Sitterback to top
- Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890), Explorer and writer. Sitter in 9 portraits.
Artistsback to top
This portraitback to top
This photograph, taken for Portraits of Men of Eminence (1865), presents Burton in a Levantine costume.
Linked publicationsback to top
- Jeal, Tim; Calder, Angus; Driver, Felix; Cannizzo, Jeanne; Barringer, Tim; MacKenzie, John M., Livingstone: David Livingstone and the Victorian Encounter in Africa, 1996 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 22 March - 7 July 1996), p. 130
- Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 77 Read entry
Explorer, author and translator, Burton was a man of insatiable curiosity, whose exploits in Africa, the Middle East and South America earned him a reputation for great daring. He made the pilgrimage to Mecca in disguise, explored Somaliland, travelled with Speke to discover the sources of the Nile, crossed the Andes, and visited the gold and diamond mines of Brazil.
After a controversial period as Consul in Damascus (1869-71), Burton travelled to Iceland and then, in 1872, was appointed Consul in Trieste, where it was felt he could do no mischief. He remained there for the rest of his life. His later years were made financially more than secure by his translation of The Arabian Nights, which was ensured a succès de scandale by virtue of his explanatory footnotes. According to a contemporary assessment, 'The whole of his life was a protest against social conventions'.
This photograph was taken for Portraits of Men of Eminence, a series begun by the conchologist and antiquary Lovell Reeve, in which photographs of the famous were accompanied by short biographies. It appeared in Volume 3, edited by Reeve's successor Edward Walford, and was published in 1865. It almost certainly dates from April that year when Burton, then Consul in Fernando Po, off the coast of West Africa, came to England to be entertained to a public dinner by Lord Stanley, later Earl of Derby. Burton sits on the floor, wearing Levantine costume, amidst the exotic trappings of the photographer's studio, posed against an elaborate, if not especially appropriate, backdrop.
Placesback to top
- Place made: United Kingdom: England, London (photographer's studio, 20 Baker Street, London)
Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top
- The Search for the Source of the Nile (28 January 2008 - 27 July 2008)
Subjects & Themesback to top
Events of 1865back to top
Current affairsElizabeth Garrett Anderson is the first female to be awarded a doctor's licence. She is also involved in collecting signatures for the Manchester Suffrage Committee, the first suffrage organisation, formed this year. John Stuart Mill was also elected to parliament this year on the platform of women's suffrage.
Palmerston dies in October, and is replaced as leader of the Liberal government by his Foreign Secretary, Lord Russell.
Art and scienceLewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland is published, inspired by Carroll's relationship (as Oxford don Sir Charles Dodgson) with his friend Henry George Liddell's daughter Alice.
Matthew Arnold publishes the first series of Essays in Criticism, a defining text in the development of English literature as an academic discipline.