Iago, Study from an Italian By Julia Margaret Cameron.

Angelo Colarossi (c. 1838 – 1916) was an Italian, and from a family of professional models. His son later posed for the famous statue of ‘Anteros’ (more commonly known as ‘Eros’), in London’s Piccadilly Circus.

Back then, sitters would have had to keep very still, so using a professional model was a sensible way to avoid blurred edges. Photography critic, Francis Hodgson commented in the Financial Times that “It’s partly because Colarossi could bear the exposure time that the picture is so startlingly modern.” This photograph does indeed look like an incredibly contemporary image.

Hodgson goes on to say that he would prefer it if the sitter was not a professional model – “it would be wonderful to think this a literary or cultural figure whom we could imagine we knew better through the portrait.” I disagree with Hodgson; I don’t think I could love it more.

The actor Colarossi, playing the role of Iago, would have been directed by Cameron to shape the end result. The art and artfulness of the image is what makes it all the more powerful. It is exactly what Julia Margaret Cameron wanted us to see, and in reminding us of that Shakespearian manipulator, Iago, I think she might have been making a point about art. So, what do you want to see?

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