From the Maid of Orleans to the giant Saturn V rocket: explore our Picture Researcher's favourites from the archive
What is your role at Bridgeman?
I'm a picture researcher. It's my job to try to find the best available images or footage for a client's project, whether it's a bestseller close at hand or something more niche or obscure that must be sourced from one of our many content partners around the globe. Questions about missing or disputed info also come through to us in the research department.
What do you love most about the job?
Sometimes there is some sleuthing to be done. This is the best bit. A client might want information on a tiny fragment of a picture of unknown origin, and it's up to us to hunt it down, either technologically, by historical inference, or through connoisseurship based on stylistic cues.
What misconceptions do clients most commonly have about the archive?
Not a misapprehension, exactly, but an oversight. We offer a free research service to interested clients, by which we search our own archive or consult our content partners, either to track down specific images or to curate selections of relevant material on any theme. This we are happy to do up front, with no obligation.
The historic Jeanne didn't manage to beg armour off the king until she was seventeen, but here the artist wants to make her look even younger. He has her on her knees in devotion and she comes off looking like she's playing dress-up in adult clothes. The real subject though is the armour. Millais is more interested in light glinting off steel than the fate of the Maid of Orleans, so he pulls the classic painters' move of selecting props that let him flex his skills.
Here the American Civil War is in its high steampunk phase, with two ironclad ships firing on each other in the first encounter of its kind. It's a bit of a sci-fi moment. The old sailing ship in the background appears suddenly obsolete now that the CSS Virginia and USS Monitor have shown which way technology is evolving. It wasn't obvious how best to use these new weapons or to defend against them, putting naval tactics in an uncertain way for a few decades. Eventually, however, Dreadnoughts, U-boats and other terrors would emerge from these earlier transitional fossils.
John Gay's photos from the English Heritage collection are some of the best in the archive. There are many spectacular architectural shots, idyllic landscapes, industrial scenes and stylish mid-century air and rail travellers back from when everything didn't look like garbage. There are even some animals here and there, like this dog with its head in a hole.
This is a good one for anyone who's taken a creative risk and had to deal with disparaging put-downs, perhaps even from an inner critic. The representation is not exactly subtle and veers into self-pity, but the theme never goes out of date. In moments of doubt, one's critics can seem to grow in stature, but this is a good reminder that really they are just diabolical, squalid, flapping bat-things, and not to be trusted.
The Saturn V moon rocket, the best sculpture in the history of art.