Cabinet photo dating
To fully understand the context of family pictures, it is useful and interesting to look at the portrait tradition and learn how the earlier demand for hand-crafted artworks evolved into the fashion for portrait photography in the mid-19th century.Predictably, most attendees on the course had photographs that they wished to learn more about and have given permission for me to share these online.Sometimes photographs can be misleading, until they are explained: for example, the visual image and style of card mount may appear to be of different dates.Above is an example of a ‘memorial portrait’ - a copy of an earlier photograph made after the subject of the picture had died, so that family members could have portraits by which to remember the deceased.This photographic mount also demonstrates the vogue for coloured cards that developed during the 1870s: this pale sugar-pink shade was especially fashionable and was used for up to 20 years.Most Victorian photographs were taken in the photographer’s studio.
Figure 1.--This 1897 portrait was taken in Chicago during 1897. Mote how the studio name is impressed which makes it difficult to read. We note wicker furniture often painted wite arounf the turn-of-the 20th century.
One attendee had a collection of several good ambrotypes dating from the mid-late 1850s and early 1860s.
Ambrotypes - also known as collodion positives - are unique photographic images on glass and, being fragile, are often protected under another layer of glass and presented in a hinged case, or framed for hanging on the wall.
We note border with red or gold rules in both single and double lines (1866-80).
The photographer name and location are commonly printed just below the image.The distinguishing feature of the cabinet card was the commercially printed mounting cards on which the actual photograph was pasted. The variations in the mounts are of considerable interest because they can be used to help date the image. The printed cardboard mounts that the image were pasted on were printed with information about the photographer and studio.