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    Stunning Unseen Studio Portraits Of Black People In Victorian Britain

    An exhibition in east London is showing over 200 newly discovered portraits from the early days of photography.

    Black Chronicles II is an exhibition by the British photographic arts charity Autograph ABP that explores black presences in 19th- and early 20th-century Britain through the prism of studio portraiture.

    It consists of over 200 photos, most of which have never been published or exhibited before, and is part of "an ongoing process of redressing persistent 'absence' within the historical record", the charity says.

    Lion and tiger trainer Sargano Alicamousa in the 1890s (left), and Sarah Forbes Bonetta in 1862.

    Courtesy of Michael Graham Stewart collection / Studio: R. Milne
    Courtesy of Paul Frecker collection / The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography / Studio: Merrick

    Sargano Alicamousa (Alexander/John Humphreys) (born 1859), was a lion and tiger trainer who travelled to London as a teenager and worked and toured throughout Europe, working in Astley's Amphitheatre and George Sanger's London theatre.

    Sarah Forbes Bonetta (1843–1880), was captured at the age of five by raiders from Dahomey in west Africa, and sent to England as a "gift" for Queen Victoria from King Ghezo of Dahome. She was educated in Brighton, where she married Nigerian merchant James Pinson Labulo in 1862, and later returned to Africa. Queen Victoria was godmother to her first child, Victoria.

    The curatorial premise of Black Chronicles II is to open up critical enquiry into the archive, continue the debate around black subjectivity within Britain, [and] examine the ideological conditions in which such photographs were produced and the purpose they serve as agents of communication.

    Dejazmatch Alamayou Tewodros, the "prince of Ethiopia" in 1868 (left), and unidentified sitters, circa 1880.

    Jenny Allsworth collection / Julia Margaret Cameron
    Paul Frecker collection / The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography / Studio: J.Hart

    Dejazmatch Alamayou Tewodros (1861–79), the "prince of Ethiopia", was orphaned at the age of seven following a British attack on Magdala, Abyssinia. Brought to England by Sir Robert Napier and placed in the care of explorer Captain Tristam Speedy, he died in 1879 from pleurisy while still a teenager.

    These unidentified sitters were photographed in London, circa 1880.

    Unidentified sitters in Liverpool (left), and Shrewsbury, circa 1880s.

    Courtesy of Val Wilmer collection / Studio: Medrington
    Courtesy of Val Wilmer collection / Studio: J. Laing

    Both images were taken in the 1880s.

    Two artists from The African Choir seen in 1891, a group of entertainers from South Africa who toured Britain between 1891–93.

    Courtesy of © Hulton Archive / Getty Images​ / London Stereoscopic Company
    Courtesy of © Hulton Archive / Getty Images​ / London Stereoscopic Company

    The African Choir left Africa for Europe at the end of the 19th century to raise funds for education. Among many other places, they performed for Queen Victoria at Osborne House, the former royal residence in East Cowes, Isle of Wight.

    Black Chronicles II is presented by Autograph ABP at Rivington Place, London, from 12 September - 29 November, 2014. The exhibition is curated by Renée Mussai and Mark Sealy and produced in collaboration with the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images; and other partners. Original research supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.