Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)AT
TitleSir Lawrence Alma-Tadema Collection
Extent167 boxes and 48 large boxes, 8 outsize boxes, and 4 items in planchest
Datemid 19th century-early 20th century
Thumbnail (Click this image to open a larger image)

AT/AT 1 Portfolio 123 11162.jpg

AT/AT 1 Portfolio 149 12059.jpg

DescriptionThe archive contains a large collection of photographs taken by or for Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, together with 584 of Alma-Tadema's drawings and prints.

Alma-Tadema's drawings, chiefly of subjects from the ancient and medieval world, had an immense popularity in later 19th century, particularly in England. They are notable for their almost photographic realism, and his extensive collection of photographs and prints revealed his sources. Whilst most of the original drawings in this collection are by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, others are by J.J. Gaul who worked as Alma-Tadema’s assistant, and a smaller number by G. Discanno, Laura Theresa Alma-Tadema, and Miss Alma-Tadema. A lot of Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s original drawings are undated, but he mostly produced artworks during the period 1852-1912.

The photographs cover a wide range of subjects, including architecture, classical landscapes, costumes, antiquities and animals, and are excellent examples of mid nineteenth to early twentieth century photography. Alma-Tadema used many elements of Roman art and architecture in his paintings. He strove for historical authenticity and in order to achieve this he made use of photographs, using them as studies for his paintings. Photographs at this time were a popular medium for archaeological documentation and Alma-Tadema started collecting photographs in 1863 on his journey through Italy.

Alma-Tadema bought hundreds of photographs during his many journeys. He stored these photographs on cardboard mounts in portfolios and they were sorted and arranged according to subject (see arrangement field below). Details from the photographs are often to be recognised in Alma-Tadema's paintings and it is this combination of both the photographs and the original drawings that make this archive so historically valuable.

There are also notable photographs of drawings in the collection by Keeley Halsewelle (AT/2/Album/5), Hendrik Willem Mesdag and Sina Mesdag-van Houte (AT/2/Album/6), and prints by Japanese artist Hiroshige (AT/1/Portfolio94).
NotesFirst photo at Fonds level is of Pompeii: House of Sallustius, showing Sir Laurence Alma-Tadema drawing (ref: AT/1/Portfolio123/11162).
Second photo at Fonds level shows Alma-Tadema with sculptured Coliseum (ref: AT/1/Portfolio149/12059).
The catalogue to the Alma-Tadema collection includes words from the records which might now be considered offensive and discriminatory. The language reflects usage at the time the records were created. We are working to revise our finding aids to ensure that they do not make anyone feel excluded, or use prejudicial language, whilst also recognising the impact of the past and the historical context. If you encounter an entry that you feel needs updating, please let staff know.
ArrangementThe catalogue arrangement for sections AT/1 and AT/2 is based on the inventory of the photographs, drawings and prints made for the Victoria and Albert Museum, by E. Onslow Ford, 1915. This in turn was based on Alma-Tadema’s own arrangement of his material in portfolios, sorted according to subjects.

Additional material found at the time of cataloguing enhancement work were added to form sections AT/3 (additional photographs), AT/4 (reference aids re Alma-Tadema's library and portfolios), and AT/5 (book plates and blocks).

Section AT/1 contains 168 portfolios of photographs, drawings, tracings and prints. Portfolios 1-164 were in the original 1915 listing of the archive. Portfolios 165-168 were added later. The portfolios are arranged by subject as follows:

Portfolio 1-2 Altars
Portfolio 3 America, Fiji Islands, Pelew Islands, New Granada, and Peru
Portfolio 4-9 Animals
Portfolio 10-12 Aqueducts, fountains and baths
Portfolio 13-14 Triumphal arches
Portfolio 15-18 Architectural details
Portfolio 19-20 Costume (Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Sassanian)
Portfolio 21 Birds and fish
Portfolio 22 Bridges, ships, carts etc
Portfolio 23-24 Architecture (Byzantine)
Portfolio 25 Costume (Byzantine)
Portfolio 26 Columbaria and Urns
Portfolio 27 Catacombs
Portfolio 28 Architecture (early Christian)
Portfolio 29-30 Early Christian
Portfolio 31-33 Architecture (Egyptian)
Portfolio 34-36 Costume (Egyptian)
Portfolio 37 Embroideries
Portfolio 38-39 Early English
Portfolio 40 Late English
Portfolio 41 English Gothic
Portfolio 42-46 Architecture (Etruscan)
Portfolio 47-48 Costume (Etruscan)
Portfolio 49 Early European civilisation
Portfolio 50-60 Costume (European)
Portfolio 61-62 Flowers
Portfolio 63-64 Fruit and fruit trees
Portfolio 65 Early Church furniture
Portfolio 66-70 Gods
Portfolio 71 Stories of Gods, mythology
Portfolio 72 Miscellaneous
Portfolio 73 Modern Gothic
Portfolio 74-76 Architecture (Greek)
Portfolio 77 Mausoleums
Portfolio 78-79 Parthenon
Portfolios 80-81 Costume (Greek)
Portfolio 82 Portraits (Greek)
Portfolio 83-84 Vases (Greek and Etruscan)
Portfolio 85 Architecture (Asia: India)
Portfolio 86 Costume (India: Hindustan)
Portfolio 87-91 Early Italian
Portfolio 92 Italian Renaissance
Portfolio 93-94 Japan
Portfolio 95 Knole house [Sevenoaks]
Portfolio 96-97 Northern landscapes
Portfolio 98 Southern landscapes
Portfolio 99 Books and manuscripts
Portfolio 100 Civil monuments
Portfolio 101 Architecture (Modern Orient and Jewish)
Portfolio 102 Costume (Modern Orient)
Portfolio 103-105 Architecture (Norman)
Portfolio 106 Museum Plantin, Antwerp
Portfolio 107-108 Plants and creepers
Portfolio 109-110 Religions and official ceremonies
Portfolio 111-114 Renaissance
Portfolio 115 Metal implements and vessels (Roman)
Portfolio 116-117 Costume (Roman)
Portfolio 118-120 Furniture
Portfolio 121 Glass (Roman)
Portfolio 122-124 Houses and shops
Portfolio 125 Lamps, candelabras
Portfolio 126-128 Mosaics (Roman)
Portfolio 129-130 Decorative painting (Roman)
Portfolio 131-133 Pictures (Roman)
Portfolio 134-137 Portraits (Roman)
Portfolio 138 Pottery (Roman)
Portfolio 139-141 Decorative sculpture
Portfolio 142 Ornamental sculpture (Roman)
Portfolio 143 Stucco (Roman)
Portfolio 144 Vases (Roman)
Portfolio 145 Sarcophagi
Portfolio 146 Skies, seas and phenomena
Portfolio 147-148 Temples
Portfolio 149-150 Theatres and amphitheatres
Portfolio 151-152 Theatrical and other games
Portfolio 153 Tombs
Portfolio 154-155 Towns and houses
Portfolio 156-158 Trees
Portfolio 159-160 Walls of towns, gates etc
Portfolio 161 13th Century
Portfolio 162 Pergamon Museum, Berlin
Portfolio 163 Miscellaneous
Portfolio 164 Italy miscellaneous
Portfolio 165 Photographs of Alam-Tadema's paintings
Portfolio 166-168 Society for Photographing Relics of Old London
LocationDrawings/tracings were removed from the portfolio boxes by conservation staff, and window mounts were created. These drawings/tracings are stored in the large section.
Access ConditionsAccess to all registered researchers
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue. A paper copy is also available in the Cadbury Research Library.
Access StatusOpen
Creator NameAlma-Tadema, Sir, Lawrence, 1836-1912, painter of historical subjects
Administrative HistoryLawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912), was born in Friesland in the Netherlands in 1836. He trained in Antwerp and came into contact with Baron Henri Ley (1815-1869), a painter of sixteenth century Flemish historical subjects, and Louis de Taeye (1822-1890) a painter and professor of archaeology at the Antwerp Academy. Following his first marriage to Marie Pauline Gressin Dumoulin de Boisgirard in 1863, Lawrence Alma-Tadema visited Italy and, influenced by the archaeological remains he saw in Florence, Rome, Naples and Pompeii, he developed a life long interest in classical archaeology and architecture. He began to acquire a reputation as a painter of historical subjects, particularly of Greek and Roman antiquity. Between 1865 and 1870, Alma-Tadema lived in Brussels but then moved to London. He remarried in 1871, to Laura Epps, a former pupil, who also practiced as an artist.

Lawrence Alma-Tadema was a very prolific painter, producing more than 400 paintings in his lifetime, and his pictures sold well. His success, popularity and wealth continued to grow and he regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy, becoming an Associate Member in 1876 and a full member in 1879. He was knighted in 1899, awarded the Order of Merit in 1905 and the Royal Institute of British Architects' Gold Medal in 1906. He was buried in St Paul's Cathedral in 1912.

Reference: Guide to Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema Collection, Brill, published 1998.
Numerous drawings in the collection are by J.J. Gaul. James John Gaul was born in Ireland in 1859 and moved to London as a boy with his family. He trained as an architect and draughtsman of perspective. Little is known about his career, however he appears to be working for Lawrence Alma-Tadema by the early 1880s and many drawings in Alma-Tadema's collection are by him. He died in Richmond, Surrey aged 40 in 1899, leaving his wife Nettie and children Lawrence and Pauline.
AcquisitionAlma-Tadema's collection was donated to the Victorian and Albert Museum. In 1947 the collection was then transferred to the University of Birmingham.
Related MaterialCadbury Research Library also holds the following related archive collections:
Letters of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Ref: ATL) and Letters Additional of Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (Ref: ATLAdd).


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