Helen Trompeteler – January 2020

Prince Albert’s role and influence as a patron of photography

This paper will explore how Prince Albert’s patronage of early photographers helped establish and legitimise the art form and business of photography. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were patrons of the (later Royal) Photographic Society shortly after its foundation in 1853. Albert’s trusted librarian, Dr Ernst Becker, was an important early member who acted as a connection between the royal family and the emerging professional world of photography.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 was a critical moment in the exhibition, use and dissemination of photography. Later in 1853, Prince Albert initiated the ambitious Raphael Collection, which aimed to record every known work considered to be by or after Raphael in the mid-nineteenth century. By 1876, this project had created some 5,000 prints and photographs, a resource on Raphael that remains unmatched today. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert also inspired many of their children to practice or collect photography, ensuring that their patronage would continue with successive generations.