This is Dr. Hugh Diamond's photograph of a young female patient taken during the 1850's in an asylum for the insane. The image, reproduced by Elaine Showalter in "Representing Ophelia," is Plate 32 in The Face of Madness: Hugh W. Diamond and the Origin of Psychiatric Photography, ed. Sander Gilman. The image of the sexually obsessed Ophelia had so thoroughly saturated the popular imagination that the fictional character and the real madwoman had become one, as in this photograph where the young woman has been garlanded in flowers and leaves for her portrait.
"The iconography of the Romantic Ophelia" was so fixed in nineteenth-century culture that, according to Showalter, one way for a young woman to express her psychological anguish was to imitate Ophelia, and "where the women themselves did not willingly throw themselves into Ophelia-like postures, asylum superintendents, armed with the new technology of photography, imposed the costume, gesture, props, and expression of Ophelia upon them" (86). As Oscar Wilde had observed, life imitates art--at least in the incident of this young woman.