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131540 131540_1 131540_2
BLAVATSKY, Helena Petrovna.

Signed cabinet portrait photograph.

Availability: In stock

Published: London Enrico Resta, [1889]

Stock Code: 131540

OR On display in 100 Fulham Road


A scarce signed cabinet photo of renowned occultist and founder of theosophy Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891); auction records recording no comparable examples. This photo, often referred to as the "Sphinx" portrait, shows Blavatsky in her most common pose, with her head resting on her hand gazing directly to the viewer. It was one of six portrait photos she had done on 8 January 1889, at Resta's studio at 4 Coburg Place, Bayswater. Blavatsky was pleased with the resultant photos and ordered a number of copies, especially of this shot, her favourite of the six. Resta (1858/9-1942) later donated the six original glass plates to the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky moved to America in 1873, where she befriended Henry Steel Olcott, and came to prominence as a spirit medium. In 1875 Blavatsky, with the support of Olcott and William Quan Judge, founded the Theosophical Society, an organisation designed to study various spiritual schools of thought, with the aim of finding universal truth. In 1887 she established her own esoteric Blavatsky Lodge in London, together with a theosophical magazine, Lucifer the Light-Bringer. It was there that Blavatsky wrote her magnum opus, The Secret Doctrine, which "covers cosmic evolution, the origins of the universe, the history of humankind (derived from higher beings of lunar origins), and reincarnation" (ODNB). Noted theosophists include women's rights activists Annie Besant (who was confirmed as Blavatsky's de facto successor in 1895), Clara Codd, and Henriette Muller, as well as W. B. Yeats.

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Original albumen print mounted on grey heavy card stock studio mount printed in dark grey (image: 140 x 103 mm; mount: 162 x 109 mm).


Slight rounding of mount corners, a couple of faint marks to photo edge; else a near-fine example. Presented in an ornate gilt wood frame with conservation mount and glazed with Tru Vue Optium museum acrylic.


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