skiagraphia

skiagraphia

Posted on 05/31/2013


Photo taken on October  3, 2010


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Keywords

portrait
half plate
cased image
ambrotype
early photography
American
USA
photograph
vintage
antique
Virginians


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Ambrotype of a Virginian couple: plate

Ambrotype of a Virginian couple: plate
Half plate American ambrotype
photorapher unknown, late 1850s-early 1860s
entry number: amb.2010.09.

Ambrotype of an American couple, coming from an estate in Norfolk, Virginia (Park Place or West Ghent) - thus, there is a great probability that the two were Virginians.

A portrait of a rather dissonant couple, which exhibits some poignant details. The man is well habituated to his middle class clothes, but his hair seems more likely unarranged than programatically romantic, and his gaze has nothing comforting in it. The woman seems to be pregnant, considering that late 1850s crinolines didn`t have the kind of front protuberance seen here, as well as the unusual position of her hands. However, no wedding ring - a highlighted item in many early photographs - is visible here. The woman wears a fingerless lace glove of the type that came into fashion in the second half of the 1850s - but only one glove. This is definitely not the usual engagement/marriage portrait, but still an important occasion for a grand 1/2 plate photograph... They might be brother and sister, but that doesn`t fill all the symbolic holes in the picture. I`ve seen enough early portraits to judge prudently the apparent distress on the photographed ones` faces, but this portrait leaves a question unanswered.

Some conservation info: the ambrotype was broken at some point of its history in 11 fragments, which have been glued on a glass, resulting a rather heavy assembly of 3 glass plates which barely fit in the brass preserver. Some of the fragments had began moving, without much damage though. On the long term, the glue might degrade the plate, but it would`ve been more dangerous to try to disassemble the glued glass, so I`ve decided only to clean the upper glass sheet and to seal all the three very tightly with archival paper tape, like a daguerreotype, in order to prevent the friction between the moving fragments.

***

View this ambrotype on Flickr.

Christina Sonnenschein, Alan Mays, Les's Photography AKA aligeeach, Nylonbleu and 2 other people have particularly liked this photo


Comments
Nylonbleu
Nylonbleu
This is one of the most amazing vintage picture I have seen.... Those two people are so very strange, and their outfit (expecialy the lady's) are museum worthy !
3 years ago.
skiagraphia has replied to Nylonbleu
Thank you for your kind words and the invitation! More than three years after having written my short text on it, this portrait retains its aura of strangeness.
3 years ago.
Nylonbleu has replied to skiagraphia
each time I loook at it, I'm mesmerized !!!
3 years ago.
skiagraphia
skiagraphia
Thank you!
3 years ago.