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Prince Albert's Personal Papers

Papers relating to Prince Albert’s personal life and enthusiasms


Letter from William Lake Price to Dr. Ernst Becker from Rome, in answer to apparent criticism from Becker, protesting that he has carried out his commission for the Prince punctiliously and hopes to return to England soon with the majority of the photogra

8 Mar 1859

Loose manuscript paper; mounted | 1 documents (6 pages) (whole object) | RA VIC/ADDA10/85/278

In response to a letter he has received from Becker, Lake Price assures him that he has carried out the Prince's commission precisely as instructed and has not taken improper advantage of it to facilitate his work on other commissions. On arriving in Rome he at once handed over the lists of works in private and public collections to Consul Freeborn and Colonel Bruce respectively, so that they could obtain permission for him to photograph them.

Cavaliere Fabris, the Director General of the Pontifical Museums, called for him and personally took him over the collections there; he showed Lake Price the bathroom [of Pope Julius, see VIC/ADDA10/85/277] of his own accord. Lake Price has not been back to the Vatican since then because he was injured in a fall at the Villa Madama. He did not take any action [over the bathroom] which might cause offence.

He presumes that Becker's admonition to him not to do anything beyond photographing the subjects for which Colonel Bruce had obtained permission does not mean he cannot carry out photography commissioned by the Art Union or others. He will apply for permission for these commissions himself, in writing.

His arrival in Rome has created jealousy among local photographers whose attempts to photograph Old Masters have failed; he mentions this because garbled accounts of what he has said or done have evidently already reached England. Not one Old Master has been successfully photographed in Rome, even by a leading photographer from Paris sent for to photograph Raphael's Entombment in the Borghese collection.

Lake Price has been commissioned to photograph this picture for 50 guineas. His photograph of the [portrait of] Beatrice Cenci is the first to have succeeded, but many pictures defy the photographer. Despite two days of experiments with lighting and different processes he has been unable to photograph the portraits of Cesare and Cardinal Borgia, because of the yellow varnish of three centuries. The yellow subjects in the Stanze are likewise impossible.

Lake Price admits that he has mentioned his commissions, and first of all the Prince's, in artistic circles, but he denies mentioning any sums of money or any details in connection with his work for the Prince. His knowledge and long experience enables him to command high prices, but in gratitude for the Prince's approval of his work he has always aimed to charge the Prince less than other people.

He hopes to make good progress now and to return to England soon with photographs of most of the works listed, although some are 'beyond the reach of Photography'. But no process will be left untried.

Lake Price adds a postscript asking Becker to tell Miss Bulteel that a presentation proof he sent to her could not be delivered to the address to which he sent it; he will forward it to her on his return if she supplies an address.

Related Material: For related correspondence, see VIC/ADDA10/85/277.
  • Creator(s)

    Price, William Lake; photographer (writer) [8 March 1859]

    Dr Ernst Becker (1826-88)


  • 1 documents (6 pages) (whole object)