Oscar Wilde In America


A Selected Resource Of Oscar Wilde's Visits To America

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‍INTRODUCING THE Sarony Photographs


‍Shortly after his arrival in New York for his 1882 Lecture Tour, Oscar Wilde posed for a series of photographs taken by Napoleon Sarony, then the most famous portrait photographer in America.


‍The photographs were taken at Sarony's studio at 37 Union Square, New York City on January 5th, 1882, and have become the most recognizable images of Oscar Wilde, and the ones by which we most readily associate him with today. Wilde revisited New York in the late Summer of 1883 when Sarony took several more photographs, this time with Wilde's hair cut much shorter. This archive is the only place in mass publication where all known Sarony images of Oscar Wilde appear together.


‍Number of Photographs


‍It is often cited that there 27 Sarony photographs  of Oscar Wilde from 1882. Indeed, this is the number illustrated in Merlin Holland’s excellent little book The Wilde Album. [Henry Holt, 1998]. However, the author was wise to note there were “at least” 27 because the book ignores one of TWO photographs designated as number 9. 


‍The two number 9s are extremely similar and could easily be mistaken for each other if not viewed together. In one Wilde is holding a book and in the other he is not. They are included in the archive as photographs 9A and 9B. The additional number 9 means that there are 28 photographs from 1882. To these we can add three known photographs taken by Sarony in 1883 of Wilde with shorter hair. Therefore the current number of Sarony images of Oscar Wilde stands at 31.


‍Curiosities


‍Included are the last four photographs (numbers 24-27) which this web site postulates were taken at a later date. For more see The Last Four.


‍One of the photographs (number 18) became the subject of a copyright infringement suit by Sarony against the Burrow-Giles Lithographic Company, which had marketed unauthorized lithograph trade cards based the image. The federal trial court for the Southern District of New York awarded a $610 judgment to Sarony (the equivalent today of over $13,000). The judgment was affirmed by the U.S. Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York, and subsequently by the Supreme Court of the United States. (See Copyright below)

Napoleon Sarony in dress uniform wearing a fez
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Oscar Wilde In America | © John Cooper, 2020