Portraits of daily life commissioned by Queen Victoria could fetch £25,000

Glass plate image of Queen Victoria's sitting room in the Grand Hotel, Grasse
Glass plate image of Queen Victoria's sitting room in the Grand Hotel, Grasse
14:58pm, Thu 08 Oct 2020
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A collection of rare photographic portraits offering an insight into Queen Victoria’s life are expected to fetch up to £25,000 at auction.

The archive features 69 oval enamel miniatures including Victoria, her husband Prince Albert, their children and the Queen’s faithful servant John Brown.

It also offers a behind-the-scenes glance at Victoria’s surroundings, with a glass plate image of her ornate sitting room in the Grand Hotel in Grasse on the French Riviera.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – credit Hansons

Victoria commissioned Scottish-born experimental photographer Alexander Lamont Henderson to capture pictures of everyday life.

The black and white image of Victoria’s sitting room shows her desk, positioned in the centre beneath a grand chandelier and crammed with framed family photographs, with many more on the surrounding furniture.

Victoria was a frequent visitor to the French Riviera from the 1880s onwards, and the collection also includes 23 square lantern slides depicting scenes in Grasse and 31 slides of views and people in Nice.

She awarded Henderson a royal warrant in 1884, which allowed him to photograph the royal family, and the Queen also commissioned a number of enamels to be made from earlier plates, which included Albert, who died in 1861, and John Brown.

One of miniature portraits

The images have been tucked away in a cupboard for decades after being inherited by Henderson’s family.

His great-great grandson Roderick Williams, a 63-year-old electrical engineer from Coltishall in Norfolk, said he hoped the historic work might be preserved in a museum.

Mr Williams said Henderson worked as a photographer for Queen Victoria up to her death in 1901.

“We think he caught her attention thanks to his experimental colour work with glass plate lantern slides and enamels,” he said.

Glass slides of France in the Henderson collection – credit Hansons

He added: “As well as taking photos of Queen Victoria, he worked with glass plate negatives taken by other photographers but, sadly, much of his work has been lost or destroyed.

“That’s one of the reasons I have reluctantly decided to sell. Perhaps this archive deserves to be in a museum or royal collection to allow his work to be preserved and enjoyed by future generations.”

Edinburgh-born Henderson died in 1907, and some of his work was donated to the London Guildhall Museum but was destroyed during Second World War air raids.

Jim Spencer, associate director of Hansons Auctioneers, said Henderson’s work was scarce, hence the importance of the archive.

Alexander Lamont Henderson 1901 – Hansons

“This is a fascinating collection of unique images that sweep us back around 140 years,” he said.

“They provide an insight into Queen Victoria’s life, the Victorian era and also capture evocative scenes in France.

“His work was ground-breaking in many ways. It’s a great shame much of it was destroyed during the Blitz but this personal collection has survived intact thank to his family.”

The collection, estimated to fetch between £15,000 and £25,000, will be sold online in Hansons’ Library Auction on October 13.

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