1859 - Stereo photograph by James Robinson of Dublin makes legal history

The prominent Dublin photographer James Robinson set up a tableau vivant of ‘The Death of Chatterton’ a popular Pre-Raphaelite painting by Henry Wallis. Robinson made stereo photographs of his recreation. His motives were clear: the painting had drawn large numbers of paying customers when it was shown at The Royal Academy in London in 1856 and while on tour to the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester in 1857 and to Dublin in 1859. It was one of the best-selling pictures in reproduction during the Victorian period. Its creator Henry Wallis had sold the painting to Augustus Egg in 1856, and Egg sold the right to make engraved reproductions. In this charged commercial context, Robinson’s photographic version became the subject of a court case – the first of its kind involving photography. Robinson was taken to court for breach of copyright – and he lost.

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