University of Glasgow's Hilary Macartney curates exhibition at Madrid's Museo del Prado.

University of Glasgow's Hilary Macartney curates exhibition at Madrid's Museo del Prado.

Issued: Tue, 31 May 2016 10:41:00 BST

A new exhibition at the Prado Museum in Madrid tells the remarkable story of the first photographically illustrated book on art. In 1848, the Scottish scholar and collector William Stirling (Sir William Stirling Maxwell) published the Annals of the Artists of Spain, the first scholarly history of Spanish art. To the three volumes of text, he added a fourth, limited edition volume of Talbotype illustrations which made this the first book on the history of art to be illustrated with photographs. Taken in 1847, these were the first photographs representing Spanish art, architecture and design. At this early date, photography within museums was not yet possible, and Stirling frequently relied on copies of paintings, including of many of the masterpieces in the Prado, but the volume also contains the first direct photographs of relief sculpture, drawings by Murillo and Cano, and etchings by Ribera and Goya. Only fifty copies of these experimental volumes were produced and given to Stirling’s family, friends, fellow Hispanophiles, and libraries. The photographer was Nicolaas Henneman, assistant to William Henry Fox Talbot, inventor of the first negative-positive photographic process. Unfortunately the chemical process used for the photographs was unstable and the photographs began to fade soon after the volumes were produced. Nevertheless, Stirling’s pioneering volume led the way for the use of photography as the essential tool of Art History, and especially to its use in the illustration of books on art, not only for scholars but providing wider access to art for a growing popular market. This exhibition commemorates remarkable photographic experiment by bringing together many of the original artworks, copies and prints that were photographed with working proofs from Henneman’s studio, and some of the surviving examples of the volume itself. The exhibition coincides with the publication of a facsimile and critical edition of the volume, and is also part of the PhotoEspaña series of exhibitions across Madrid during summer 2016.