The Two Ways of Life, above, was an allegorical tableau vivant, or mise-en-scène was created by Oscar Rejlander in 1857. It depicts a philosopher, or a sage, or perhaps a father leading two young men towards manhood. One (to the left) looks towards vice: gambling, wine and prostitution. The other, with perhaps less enthusiasm, looks towards virtue: religion, industry and family. Penitence, in the center, looks toward the right, rejecting vice. The image was the first publicly exhibited photograph of a nude, the first major art photograph and the first photo-montage.
The image, not surprisingly, caused a sensation. One reviewer described it as “magnificent….decidedly the finest photograph of its class ever pronounced” and the print was shown in March 1857 at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition (one of the first to exhibit photographs along with other art). A copy was purchased by Queen Victoria for the Prince Consort. Even with royal patronage, however, many felt that the photographic nude crossed the line of decency. The Scottish Society even refused to display it at their Exhibition in Edinburgh.