The Welsh photographer Charles Clifford began taking photographs in 1850 and spent most of his photographic career in Madrid, becoming the official photographer to Queen Isabel II in 1858. Although his early death cut short his career, he produced a remarkable body of work, primarily photographing Spain's medieval and modern architecture, including building projects undertaken during the queen's reign. His favored photographic process was the albumen print made from a collodion negative, though he also made prints from paper negatives.
Puerta de Santa Cruz, Toledo shows the entrance doorway to the 16th-century Hospital of Santa Cruz, which is now a museum. The mount is blindstamped "C Clifford, Photo of H M" [Her Majesty], suggesting that it was taken some time after 1858. Though his architectural views encompassed a wide range, Clifford favored close-up views of intricately decorated doorways such as this example. The rich print subtly captures the tonal variations between light and dark on the facade, successfully imparting a sense of three-dimensionality to the sculptural decoration. The placement of the camera gives energy to the composition by positioning the facade at a slight angle rather than parallel to the lens. This photograph is the first by Clifford to enter the Gallery's collection. It joins a small group of 19th-century prints by French and British photographers working abroad.
by unknown hand, under image on mount in brown/black ink: Puerta de Santa Cruz / Toledo.
Marks and Labels
embossed lower left on image and mount: C. Clifford / Photo of HM [Clifford's official blind stamp].
(Robert Hershkowitz, Ltd., Sussex); NGA purchase, 2010.