Who Were They?

Lost and forgotten photos from the past

Gems 2

Lady with ringlets and the plaid girl

Page two of the Red Gem Album gives us a new image and a repeat. I have seen this phenomenon before and I don’t know if it was just a way to fill up empty openings, or if there was some other meaning to it.

Are you my mother?

Are you my mother?

This lady is wearing ringlets in her hair, which I know was in fashion in the 1850s. I am uncertain if this is a throwback to how she felt prettiest, or if this image is a bit later than 1860s vintage, as the ringlets came back in some regards in the 1870s. I’m leaning toward “she liked this style” from the ’50s. Her dress, although difficult to see because it photographed dark, has a white collar and trim in a triangular shape, pointing downward toward her waist. She also has a brooch at her neck and something else, maybe a necklace, below that. The photographer tinted her cheeks. Again, remembering how small these images are, the brushes must have been tiny. The tinting is really only apparent when the image has been scanned and enlarged. The actual image doesn’t appear to the naked eye to be tinted.

Reading more about photography and its origins, I am reminded again that daguerrotypes mimicked the artistic style of traditional portraits and portrait miniatures. Miniatures were quite popular in the 18th and 19th century, with access to photography probably bringing about their decline. They were painted on a variety of surfaces, such as stretched vellum and ivory, usually in gouache (a type of paint) or enamel. The benefit of a portrait miniature was that an individual could send their image to another, as a memento, memorial item, or even as a way to let others know what you looked like. Distant family might never meet, but through having a likeness of a cousin or other relative, the family could fix an idea in their mind. Portrait miniatures were often made into jewelry, snuff box lids, and other sentimental items. As we learned previously about gems, they were also made into jewelry and sentimental items. Seems like “everything old is new again” isn’t such a modern concept!

There is a wealth of information available on the web, but I highly recommend the Victoria & Albert Museum. If we are talking Victorian era, you may as well start with the originator of the trend, right?

Additional Reading on Portrait Miniatures

Victoria and Albert Museum 

Artists and Ancestors, an Internet Art Collection

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Wikipedia Article on Miniatures

One thought on “Mom and daughter?

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