Roger Fenton, The Third Graeco-Roman Saloon on Artists' Day, a photograph
London, England, AD 1857
Sketching from the collections
This photograph by Roger Fenton (1819-1869), the famous Victorian photographer, shows two artists in the Third Graeco-Roman Saloon (now Room 2) in 1857. In the distance to the right can be seen a Museum Attendant on duty. The artists take full advantage of natural daylight from the specially designed skylights. This was the only light available at this time as electric lighting was only installed in the Museum from 1878. Many of the Classical sculptures in this photograph are now to be found in the Wolfson Galleries (Rooms 78-85).
Sketching from the collections has been welcomed at The British Museum since the beginning of the nineteenth century. Until 1878 the Museum was closed to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On these days the collections were arranged and artists and students were admitted to sketch in the galleries.
Roger Fenton, the first official photographer to the Museum, photographed several of the exhibition galleries in 1857. Prints were available for sale and helped to broaden the public's knowledge of the Museum and its collections.
C. Date, 'Photographer on the roof', British Museum Society Bulle-1, 61 (Summer 1989)
C. Date and A. Hamber, 'The origins of photography at the British Museum, 1839-1860', History of Photography, 14: 4 (1990)