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Prince Albert was an early adopter of portrait photography


Shamil (1797-1871), St Petersburg


Albumen print with overpainting | 38.0 x 28.4 cm (image, oval) | RCIN 2935078

Half-length photograph of Imam Shamil, facing the viewer and wearing a fur trimmed headdress and a traditional tunic with a row of cartridge-cases across his chest. Mounted on card with the sitter's signature and an inscription in French which reads: 'Hommage du plus profond respect à Sa Majestè la Reine Victoria'. The photograph is also signed and dated by the photographer: 'H. Denier à St Petersbourg 1859'.

Shamil was the leader of a military-theocratic state in the Caucasus opposing Russian expansion into the region. During the 25-years conflict his popularity grew in the West, gaining him the nickname 'Lion of Dagestan'. Eventually captured in 1859, he was welcomed to St Petersburg as an (inter)national hero, being honoured by the Emperor, praised by intellectuals and portrayed by artists, including Denier, one of Russia leading photographers.

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.

  • Creator(s)

    Andrei Denier (1820-92) (photographer)

  • 38.0 x 28.4 cm (image, oval)

    48.4 x 33.2 cm (sheet of paper)

  • Shamyl in St. Petersburg, 1859

  • Presented to Queen Victoria by the photographer, 1860

  • Subject(s)
    • Places
      • Europe
        • Russia
          • St Petersburg [Russia]
    • Science, Medicine and Technology
      • Industries, Crafts and Trades
        • Clothing
          • Headdresses
            • Headdresses-Fur