Photograph

Theodore / Taken at Magdala 1/4 of an hour after his death - By Mr. R.R. Holmes

ca. 1868 (made)

London Stereoscopic

Height: 10 cm (of carte de visite), Width: 6.4 cm (of carte de visite)

PH.373-1885 PDP

Carte de visite, Tewodros II (Theodore) of Abyssinia (Ethiopia), London, ca. 1868

Sketch of the death mask of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II (Theodore) reproduced as a photograph mounted on card to form a carte de visite.

This image of the Ethiopian emperor Tewodros II (Theodore) was created shortly after his death on 13 April 1868. Frustrated by a lack of communication from Queen Victoria’s government, back in 1864 Tewodros had taken a number of Europeans captive, including the British consul, Captain Cameron. The British response was a military expedition of huge complexity and expense led by General Sir Robert Napier. The expedition marched to Tewodros’s fortress at Maqdala where a brief battle took place. Britain won the conflict, but not before the captives were released and Tewodros himself had committed suicide. The expedition – and the characters associated with it – caught the imagination of the British public. In particular the figure of the Ethiopian emperor, variously described as a ‘barbarian potentate’, ‘tyrant’ and ‘mad, wild king’, was a popular focus. Yet Tewodros could also be portrayed admiringly as a noble warrior – an attitude which this image seems to reflect. The original sketch was created by Richard Holmes, the British Museum’s special correspondent who accompanied the expedition. Text printed on this carte de visite records how Tewodros's likeness was captured ‘1/4 of an hour after his death’.

The original sketch of the dead Tewodros was created by Richard Holmes, the British Museum's special correspondent who accompanied the British Abyssinian Expedition. Text printed on the card records how the likeness was captured '1/4 of an hour after his death'.

Location: Prints & Drawings Study Room, room 512M, case MX8, shelf X, box 19

View this object on the V&A website