Julia Stephen with Vanessa, early 1880s

Julia Stephen with Vanessa

Lily Briscoe’s reverence for mother and child, represented by the Post-Impressionist “triangular purple shape” at the center of her painting in To the Lighthouse, may be based in part on this stunning photograph of Virginia Woolf’s mother and sister, aged about four. Woolf had her father’s photograph album when she was writing the novel. Like her father’s memoir, To the Lighthouse mourns her parents and the end of idyllic summer holidays at St. Ives in Cornwall. But Woolf’s novel also attempts to capture the “real” woman behind the idealized Victorian wife and mother at the center of Leslie Stephen’s album and memoir.

Reproduction of plate 36j from
Leslie Stephen’s Photograph Album
Original: albumen print (14.1 x 9.9 cm.)
Mortimer Rare Book Room, Smith College

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