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Photograph saved for nation by National Media Museum
Pasha and Bayadere by Roger Fenton (1858). Courtesy of the National Media Museum
Photographic history: Pasha and Bayadère by Roger Fenton, taken in 1858

A rare photograph worth over £108,000 has been saved for the nation thanks to the National Media Museum in Bradford.

The museum stepped in to prevent the photograph from being exported and then helped to raise funds to buy it.

The picture is by Roger Fenton, a very highly-regarded Victorian photographer.

Paul Goodman from the National Media Museum said: "We are absolutely delighted to have secured this hugely significant work for the benefit and enjoyment of future generations."

The photograph is known as Pasha and Bayadère and is regarded as one of Roger Fenton's finest images.

The artefact will join other photographs by Fenton in a major collection of his work which is kept and cared for by the National Media Museum in Bradford.

Victorian fascination

It depicts a dancing girl (bayadère) performing for the enjoyment of a high ranking official (pasha) who watches her intently while a musician plays a stringed instrument.

It is said to capture the Victorian fascination with the Orient and is part of a series of photographs Fenton took after an expedition to the Crimean War.

The Media Museum stepped in to stop the photograph being sold to overseas collectors in February 2010.

This captivating tableau is of huge importance to the display and study of photography in the UK.
Stephen Deuchar, Art Fund director

The Art Fund - the national fundraising charity for works of art - then helped the museum to raise the £108,506 needed to buy the photograph.

The Fund provided what is described as a "critical contribution" of £49,000.

The remainder of the money needed to buy the rare photograph for the National Photography Collection was provided by the National Media Museum itself.

Paul Goodman, head of collections at the museum, said it was an important purchase.

He said: "Fenton is such an influential figure within photography, and the acquisition of this rare photograph not only enhances our already strong holdings of his work but also helps fill a gap in the National Photography Collection relating to mid-nineteenth century Orientalist themes."

Carefully staged

The photograph was not, however, taken during Roger Fenton's travels.

In fact, it was carefully staged in his north London studio using costumes, props and a hired model.

In staging the scene, the dancing girl's hands were held still by tying them above her head with lengths of string fixed to the ceiling.

Fenton himself appears as the Pasha, while the musician is played by the English landscape painter Frank Dillon.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said it was a very special photograph to add to the National Photography Collection.

He said: "This captivating tableau is of huge importance to the display and study of photography in the UK.

"The intriguing interplay between the characters and Fenton's visual trickery are sure to fascinate viewers."

The photograph is one of only two examples of this image, the other being in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Plans are being made for it to go on display at the National Media Museum in Bradford.

In the meantime, the picture will be accessible to members of the public in Insight, the Media Museum's Collections and Research Centre.

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