María Cardarelly, the first studio photographer in Galicia

Rúa do Hórreo, 26
  • Rosalía de Castro por María Cardarelly

María Cecilia Cardarelly Bourquet was the daughter of French dyers who had arrived in Santiago de Compostela in 1854. She worked in the city as a professional photographer and thus she was the first woman in this profession in Galicia until then. Evidence of this is the recent researches which disclosed that she had her shop since 1854 and for three years in the street rúa del Hórreo 26, her family’s house, when she was only 19 years old. This was only a short period of time of which only three portraits are preserved. Even though, one of these was a portrait of the most important female Galician writer of all times, Rosalía de Castro.

The researches carried out try to find out the reason for the Compostelan artist’s early vocation which didn’t arise because of any family or love relationship with any male photographer, who in those days were the only ones who had the knowledge and the clues to practice this new profession. Nevertheless, it may be possible that she had contact with relatives of her father’s family in France who lived in Paris and worked as photographers and so her father could have encouraged her during the process.

The photograph of Rosalía de Castro was probably taken around 1865 and is part of the Real Academia Galega’s fund. Although a second photograph was discovered recently inside a paper that was introduced in a copy of “Cantares Gallegos” with a handwritten note of the author on its back, it shows a slight difference with the former one, since it was not taken facing straight forward and she was wearing earrings. The way in which both portraits show the author’s psychology is remarkable and they also emphasize her fantasy and spirituality.

After moving with her family to Ferrol, María Cardarelly didn’t continue to work as a photographer, maybe because of a lack of opportunities. Soon after, she got married with Juan Velasco, a painter from Madrid, with whom she had a daughter. Unfortunately, both her daughter and her husband died prematurely and she found herself in a vulnerable situation and she had to marry Antonio Perez, a military engineer who died later in the Philippines. Maria spent her life living humbly with her mother until she was 65 years old and then, in 1910, she permanently left Galicia and moved to Madrid.

The next female Galician photographer, Antonia Santos, didn’t appear until around 1872 in la Mariña, long after in a small studio in rúa do Hórreo, Maria Cardarelly had become an early and transcendent example of the introduction of photography in Galicia.

Source: Sermos Galiza, Carlos Castelao

Images: RAG (right) and Fundación Rosalía (left).