top of page


Rachel Bullough Ainscough

Universidad CEU San Pablo, Madrid, Spain

Jane Clifford: From Ballooning Companion to Keen Businesswoman

Play Video

Little is known about the mysterious Jane, wife of the well-known British photographer Charles Clifford, who lived and worked in Spain from 1850 until his early death in 1863. This is mostly due to the fact that most of Jane’s biographical details have come to light during research into the life and work of her husband and therefore, until recently she has not been a priority for researchers.

We know from census records in Madrid, that she was probably born in 1819, the same year as Charles. We also know that she arrived in the Spanish capital with her husband in the autumn of 1850 and that they both took part in ballooning events which were fashionable at the time. From press advertisements we can see that she worked hand in hand with Charles in the studio in Madrid and travelled around the country with him. In 1856, for reasons unknown, she became the first woman member of the Société Française de Photographie. After Charles’s early death in January 1863, Jane immediately took charge of the Clifford studio. The business prospered as a result of her resilience and tenacity.

In the same year, 1863, she travelled to London to register some photographs in the new copyright registry in London, put her husband’s photographic equipment on sale, exhibited a selection of his work in the Société Française de Photographie in Paris and managed to negotiate a deal with J. C. Robinson of the South Kensington Museum in London to photograph the Dauphin Treasure in Madrid and sell the series of photographs at a reduced price in exchange for keeping the negatives.

But who exactly was Jane Clifford? Recent research has discovered an enthusiastic, creative, sensitive and hard working woman, resilient in times of economic hardship, with a keen business sense. The time has come to bring her out of the shadows of her husband’s career and present her in the light she justly deserves.

bottom of page