Cultural, Literary and Artistic Explorations of a Myth
Edited By Beatrice Laurent
The figure of the beautiful reclining female sleeper is a recurring theme in the Victorian imagination, invoking visual, literary and erotic connotations that contribute to a complex range of readings involving aesthetics, gender definitions and contemporary medical opinion. This book compiles and examines a corpus of Sleeping Beauties drawn from Victorian medical reports, literature and the arts and explores the significance of the enduring revival of the myth.
Julia Margaret Cameron’s Sleeping Beauties
When he received Julia Margaret Cameron’s photographs, Victor Hugo exclaimed:
How can I thank you enough madame for this new kindness? You overwhelm me. All of them are beautiful, not one of the photographs but is in itself a masterpiece. No one has ever captured the rays of the sun and used them as you have; I throw myself at your feet.1
What was it that moved Victor Hugo so much, was it just a question of sunrays? Why did he consider the photographs as masterpieces? Was it because Julia Margaret Cameron understood that photography was not just a scientific activity but a ‘mortal yet divine art’,2 as she put it?
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