Josephine Butler

Josephine Butler

Alexander Munro (1825-1871)

Probably after 1852, and before 1868 (see below)

The Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

Alexander Munro was a long-time friend of the Butlers. The bust would have been executed at some point after the couple's marriage in 1852 and before a letter of June 1868, in which Josephine mentions that she has several times tried and failed to get a good photograph taken of herself: "I have at last got one done of Munro's bust of me, which is nice I think," she tells her correspondent ("Josephine Butler in Liverpool").

Munro shows his subject with downcast eyes, looking modest, serious and refined. If the bust was modelled closer to the time of the letter, as seems likely, he might well have been making a special point” by presenting her in this pose. Josephine had reform in her veins: born in Northumberland in 1828, she was the daughter of John Grey, a social reformer and anti-slavery campaigner who was a cousin to Earl Grey. After the tragic death in 1864 of the couple's only daughter Eva, whose bust Munro also modelled, she became an ardent reformer herself.

Photograph and text 2008 by Jacqueline Banerjee. With thanks to the gallery.