Monday, February 13, 2012

Bedford Lemere

According to the flap copy of the new book above, "Bedford Lemere & Co. was the pre-eminent English firm of architectural photographers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries." English Heritage, the book's publisher, holds an archive of 25,000 images created between 1870 and 1930 by Bedford Lemere, his son Harry, and their staff. Nicholas Cooper has selected and described about 250 of these – Rothschild mansions, ocean liners, hotels, factories, monuments, theaters, and more than a few of the wildly overstuffed middle class parlors of the period. The Photography of Bedford Lemere & Co is only available from UK sources. There is no US edition. But there should be.

The initial reason I noticed the book was the photo on the dust jacket (reproduced again in its uncropped state below).

Yesterday the quandary I faced was a floral picture frame and figuring out what it reminded me of (which turned out to be a piece of old French furniture). Today it was this curving staircase of heavily-veined marble, built in 1884 for London's National Liberal Club. I knew I had seen another one very much like it somewhere else and not very long ago, but where?

The prototype turned out to be a few hundred years older – Borromini's somewhat more expansive (and considerably more beautiful) 17th century spiral at Palazzo Barberini in Rome. The Barberini photograph is by Federico Piras (, who already kindly allowed me to use it last year here.