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‘Christina’: Mystery of beautiful 102-year-old colour portraits solved

The mystery surrounding the identity of a girl, known only as ‘Christina’, has been solved after her striking 102-year-old colour portraits were seen around the world.

Portrait of Christina wearing a red cloak, 1913, Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman © Royal Photographic Society Collection
Portrait of Christina wearing a red cloak, 1913, Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn O’Gorman

Mashable, Daily Mail Online and the Daily Mirror newspaper were among the publications that featured autochrome portraits of Christina, taken in 1913. The images are part of the Royal Photographic Society Collection at the National Media Museum, and three are currently on show in the exhibition Drawn By Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection (National Media Museum, Bradford, until 21 June 2015).

Initially, Christina was thought to be the daughter of Mervyn O’Gorman, the amateur photographer who took the shots. But research showed O’Gorman had no children, meaning her true identity remained a mystery, until now.

As a result of seeing the images, Mr Stephen Riddle contacted National Media Museum curator Colin Harding to say he had a set of stereoscopic slides by Mervyn O’Gorman, which had been passed to him by his father-in-law. The slides feature colour autochrome pictures not previously seen by anyone at the museum.

Captions on the slides refer to Edwyn and Daisy Bevan, along with ‘the children’, Anne and Christina, picturing them in various locations including the beach at West Lulworth and outside an address in Chelsea Embankment.

Colin Harding, Curator of Photographs and Photographic Technology at the National Media Museum, said: 

“We are very grateful to Mr Riddle for contacting us and it was a genuine thrill to see these images. After all the recent attention Christina had been getting I hoped they would give us sufficient clues to finally confirm her identity. It turns out Christina wasn’t O’Gorman’s daughter. Indeed, she wasn’t a relative—either close or distant.

“Christina’s full name was Christina Elizabeth Frances Bevan. She was born in Harrow on 8 March, 1897 and died in 1981. Christina was the daughter of Edwyn Robert Bevan (1870–1943), a prominent philosopher, writer on comparative religions and lecturer in Hellenistic Studies at King’s College, London.

“On 25 April 1896, Edwyn married Hon. Mary Waldegrave (born 1870), the daughter of Granville Waldegrave, 3rd Baron Radstock. Edwyn and Mary, who was known to family and friends as Daisy, had two daughters—Christina and Anne Cornelia Favell Bevan (1898–1983).

“The Bevan family lived at no. 6 Chelsea Embankment—just a two-minute walk from the O’Gorman’s home at 21 Embankment Gardens. The precise relationship between the two families still needs to be explored—perhaps Edwyn and Mervyn were members of the same club, or perhaps they shared a mutual interest in automobiles. Perhaps Mervyn O’Gorman’s wife, Florence, and Daisy were friends.

“Whatever the link, both families were clearly on friendly, first name terms. Certainly, the friendship was sufficient for Mervyn to accompany Daisy and her two daughters on a trip to Lulworth Cove in August 1913, where he took portraits of Christina.”

The exhibition Drawn By Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection was previously displayed at Media Space in the Science Museum, and runs until Sunday 21 June 2015 at the National Media Museum.

ENDS

Notes for Editors

Media Space is a collaboration between the Science Museum, London, and the National Media Museum, Bradford. Offering an eclectic series of exhibitions and events, the Media Space programme draws on the National Photography Collection and the broader Science Museum Collections. Bringing together photographers, artists, curators and the creative industries, Media Space explores relationships between, and lesser-known histories of, photography, art, science and technology.

The Science Museum’s collections form an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical change from the past. Aiming to be the best place in the world for people to enjoy science, the Science Museum makes sense of the science that shapes our lives, sparking curiosity, releasing creativity and changing the future by engaging people of all generations and backgrounds in science, engineering, medicine, technology, design and enterprise. The Science Museum Art Collection contains over 8,000 works, including 290 oil paintings, relating to the history of science, technology and medicine from the antique to the contemporary.

Part of the Science Museum Group