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Prince Albert was an early adopter of portrait photography

Andrei Denier (1820-92)

Khazi Mahommed (1833-1902), son of Shamil, St Petersburg 1859

Albumen print with overpainting | 38.0 x 28.5 cm (image, oval) | RCIN 2935079

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Half-length photograph of a Khazi Mahommed, a son of Imam Shamil, wearing a traditional furry headdress and tunic with a row of cartridge-cases with decorated tops across his chest. His right hand grasps the hilt of his sword. Signed by the photographer: 'H. Denier à St Petersbourg'.

Imam Shamil was the spiritual and military leader of the Caucasus in the struggle against Russian domination from 1834 to 1859. He surrendered in 1859 and was taken to St Petersburg where he was generally treated with respect as an honourable enemy. Khazi Mahommed was one of Shamil's two sons to accompany him in his exile to Russia. The young warrior was less keen than his father to accept defeat and following Shamil's death in 1871, he moved to Constantinople, where he was eventually proclaimed 4th Imam in 1873. During the Russo-Turkish war of 1877–8, he led a Dagestani regiment against Russia. Following Turkey's defeat, he was banished from Constantinople and exiled to Medina, where he died in 1902.

Andrei Denier, born in Mahilyow (Mogilev), Belarus, studied at the Imperial Academy of Arts, St Petersburg, between 1840 and 1851; soon after graduating, he opened a photographic studio in the Passage on Nevskii Prospekt. Together with Levitsky, Denier would soon be considered a great master of portrait photography, and was particularly known for the so-called ‘Denier effect’: the subject is seen in sharp detail, but with an overall soft-focus effect, achieved by printing from two negatives of different density.