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David Livingstone

David Livingstone, by Maull & Polyblank, 1860s - NPG x7279 - © National Portrait Gallery, London

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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David Livingstone

by Maull & Polyblank
albumen print, arched top, 1860s
7 3/4 in. x 5 3/4 in. (198 mm x 147 mm)
Purchased, 1938
Photographs Collection
NPG x7279

Sitterback to top

Artistback to top

  • Maull & Polyblank (active 1854-1865), Photographers. Artist associated with 337 portraits.

This portraitback to top

This photograph may be the result of the sitting for Maull & Polyblank that Livingstone mentioned in a letter to his publisher John Murray, dated 18 November 1857.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Hamilton, Peter; Hargreaves, Roger, The Beautiful and the Damned: The Creation of Identity in Nineteenth Century Portrait Photography, 2001 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 6 June to 7 October 2001), p. 32
  • 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. 89
  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 75 Read entry

    The legendary African missionary and explorer Livingstone arrived in England in July 1864, for the first time in seven years. He left a year later, having visited his mother in Scotland, and written The Zambesi and its Tributaries. He never saw the country again. During his stay he was photographed on several occasions, but his heroic personality appears cramped by the photographer's studio and conventional day dress. In this photograph the rhinoceros horn is included to symbolize Livingstone's African interest, but it is his tormented expression which conveys the years he had spent in conditions of extreme deprivation and danger, and the unflinching energy which drove him on to bring Christianity to the natives, to stamp out slavery, and to find the source of the Nile. His devotion to the continent was overpowering, and once, when ordered by the British government to withdraw from his exploration of the Zambesi, he wrote: 'I don't know whether I am to go on the shelf or not. If I do, I make Africa the shelf'.

Linked displays and exhibitionsback to top

Events of 1860back to top

Current affairs

An early feminist movement, The Society for Promoting the Employment of Women is founded by Adelaide Anne Proctor, Emily Faithfull, Helen Blackburn, Bessie Parks, Emily Davies, Barbara Bodichon, and Jessie Boucherett.
The Florence Nightingale Training School for Nurses opens at St Thomas's Hospital, in London, funded from the testimonial fund collected for Nightingale following her war services, and helping to establish nursing as a profession.

Art and science

William Morris and new wife Jane Burden move into the Red House, near Bexleyheath, Kent. The house, designed by Philip Webb, represents Morris's principle in interior design, that no object should be in a house that is not beautiful.
Ford Madox Brown paints The Last of England, showing a boat of emigrants leaving England under desperate circumstances, inspired by the emigration of the Pre-Raphaelite Thomas Woolner to Australia in 1852.


Italian unification continues as the Treaty of Turin brings much of Northern Italy under nationalist leader Cavour's control, who cedes Savoy and Nice to France. Garibaldi siezes the opportunity to invade Marsala in Sicily with his army of 1,000 redshirts, proclaiming himself dictator in the name of Victor Emmanuel II.
Republican Abraham Lincoln becomes President of the US, with only 39% of the popular vote.

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