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This Favoured Land

Edward King-Tenison and Lady Louisa in Spain, 1850–1853

Lee Fontanella

In the wake of the Irish potato famine, Edward King-Tenison, a sometime Irish politician of the liberal order and one of the first masterful photographers of Spain, and his wife, Lady Louisa Mary Anne Anson, the eldest daughter of the 1st Earl of Lichfield, left their estate of Kilronan in County Roscommon, Ireland, to reside and travel in Andalusia and, later, in Castile. The remarkable adventure on which these Irish nobles embarked in mid-nineteenth-century Spain led to a husband-and-wife team of astonishing cultural production. While Tenison focused on photography, Lady Louisa chronicled their travels, producing sketches and establishing relations on an international level with other artists, who collaborated in her illustrated chronicle. This book documents the fascinating travels of this couple and presents their work to a new readership.

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Chapter 1: How I met the Tenisons, who they were, and why they so interested me


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How I met the Tenisons, who they were, and why they so interested me

My romance with the Tenisons began in 2003, coincidentally enough, exactly a century and a half after the Tenisons returned to Great Britain from their sojourn in Spain; that is, when luck would have it that I should come across a scrapbook that today is registered as Album 384 in the National Library of Ireland. It is important to relate the start of this romance of mine, because the very nature of that scrapbook reveals new perspectives for our comprehension of the Tenisons’ modus operandi. That scrapbook, crude as it was, remained in a Dublin attic until 2003. Although it was put together shortly after mid-nineteenth century, it remained from 1961 to 2003, over four decades, almost unopened, until I received a communication from a gentleman who lived not far from Dublin. He mentioned that his father was holding a photograph album that he wanted someone to scrutinize with the aim of giving an assessment of it. My interest was piqued by a rough registry of its contents, which the son and his father had prepared, since this registry was made up of names of great significance for photohistorians. As I read down the list, the names kept appearing like strewn baubles: Clifford, Baldus, Aguado, “Franck”, Tenison, and more. When I went to the home of the man whose scrapbook it was, he conversed at some...

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