The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Catherine Walters ('Skittles')

Catherine Walters ('Skittles')

An inscription pencilled recto in the lower margin in a period hand identifies the sitter as ‘Anonyma’, a coded way in which the press of the day referred to the notorious courtesan Catherine Walters, who was famous for her equipage and for setting the fashion in equestrian dress and deportment. The following is an extract from an article in the Times (3 July 1862, pg. 12) which described the expectant crowds that gathered in Hyde Park to see ‘Anonyma’ when she was out riding in Rotten Row. It was generally recognized that this was a description of Catherine Walters.

‘Expectation is raised to its highest pitch: a handsome woman drives rapidly by in a carriage drawn by thoroughbred ponies of surpassing shape and action; the driver is attired in the pork pie hat and the Poole paletot introduced by Anonyma; but alas!, she causes no effect at all, for she is not Anonyma; she is only the Duchess of A–, the Marchioness of B–, the Countess of C–, or some other of Anonyma’s many eager imitators. The crowd, disappointed, reseat themselves, and wait. Another pony carriage succeeds – and another – with the same depressing result. At last their patience is rewarded. Anonyma and her ponies appear, and they are satisfied. She threads her way dexterously, with an unconscious air, through the throng, commented upon by the hundreds who admire and the hundreds who envy her. She pulls up her ponies to speak to an acquaintance, and her carriage is instantly surrounded by a multitude; she turns and drives back again towards Apsley-house, and then – away into the unknown world, nobody knows whither’.

Photographer unidentified.


Code: 123605
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