Julia Margaret Cameron, Sappho, 1865, albumen silver print from glass negative, 35 x 27.3 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Source
This is one of Cameron’s house servants, Mary Hillier, posing as the Ancient Greek poet Sappho, who lived on the island of Lesbos. Sappho wrote very naughty poems about mixed and same-sex couples, and it is from the 19th-century interest in her work that the words ‘lesbian’ and ‘sapphic’ became associated with female homosexuality. Cameron chose to portray the poet as a regal figure inspired by the Renaissance model of profile portraits. Apart from the title, however, there is little to suggest the identity of the character in question.