Oscar Wilde, 1882

by jordanjlloydhq

Colorized by Jordan J. Lloyd, based on an albumen print by Napoleon Sarony

Taken 1882, New York City, United States (Library of Congress)

The imposing Irish poet Oscar Wilde began a lecture tour of the United States in 1882, captured by celebrity photographer of the day, Napoleon Sarony, at his studio at 37 Union Square. Of the thirty two known portraits of Wilde by Sarony, most were taken in January 1882.

Portrait Fifteen shows Wilde reclining on what appears to be his famous fur lined green coat, surrounded by Turkish carpets; wearing (unbelievably for the time) a smoking jacket with ribbon piping, knee breeches, stockings and slippers with grosgrain bows, a nod to his membership of the Apollo Freemason's society in Oxford. Wilde's foppish appearance caused such a sensation that his scheduled fifty lectures nearly tripled. Another portrait of Wilde was used without permission by the Ehrich Bros. Department Store to sell a line of hats, before being successfully sued by Barony for copyright infringement.

As to the famous coat? Wilde, who had fallen on hard times, asked his brother Willie to sell it.

Original caption reads,

"Photograph shows Oscar Wilde, full-length portrait, facing right, sitting in chair, right hand on cheek, left hand holding book."