a very rare signed original photograph of nansen
THOMSON, John. Nansen. Original studio photograph, signed by Nansen on the mounting board. London, J. Thomson, 70a Grosvenor St., .
Measuring 210 by 140 mm (mounting board 380 by 305 mm); out of the original oak frame with silver coloured wooden mounts and wooden back, original glass removed, only light discoloration and spotting to board, the photograph itself very well preserved.
Unrecorded and signed three-quarter length portrait of the Norwegian explorer. We could only find out that a print of this photo was used on the front page of Illustrated London News of June 24, 1893, a copy of which is now joined with the original photograph.
The contemporary paper cutting pasted onto the wooden back panel tells us who commissioned the photo: 'One is glad to hear that a result of the Nansen lectures is to bountifully replenish the coffers of the very enterprising Bournemouth Photographic Society … By the way, I only mention that each member of the committee was presented to Dr. Nansen, who received them very cordially, and requested their acceptance of his photo bearing his autograph. And the Doctor is by no means lavish of his autograph. A Norwegian young lady resident in Bournemouth requested him at the close of his lectures to write his name in her autograph-book, but the Doctor politely, but firmly declined'. We were able to find very few archival traces of Nansen's lecture, and Christchurch Historical Society dates the event to 1897.
'John Thomson was one of the most successful Victorian photographers. For ten years between 1862 and 1872 he travelled in the Far East, establishing portrait studios in Singapore and Hong Kong, as well as recording the topography and ethnography of Cambodia and China, which earned him the nickname "China Thomson". Thomson is now best known for his pioneering work of social documentation, published in monthly parts, with texts by Adolphe Smith, of portraits of London tradespeople, Street Life in London (1877). Thomson subsequently operated fashionable portrait studios in London, the last being operated in partnership with his son, John Newlands Thomson' (National Portrait Gallery, online).
The Scott Polar Research Institute has a lithographic portrait of Fridtjof Nansen, 'engraved by William Ward, after a painting by John Thomson, 1897' (different dimensions and altered background) http://www.spri.cam.ac.uk/museum/catalogue/article/y50.22/ . It is in fact based on a painting after this photograph, and John Thomson is not known to have painted portraits. - The photo has been put back into the frame, which has been reassembled since the photos were taken.