Older woman, seated, holding book

What it is:

Carte de visite (DCV) measuring 2.5 x 3.75 inches.

What I know about it:

Nothing!  Undated and unidentified.


This photos appears to have been rather clumsily trimmed along the bottom, since it has a ragged bottom edge, and is about a quarter inch shorter than standard CDVs.  This is where a photographer would typically put his name.  If it has been removed, it might have been done to fit a frame, but it might also be that the studio information was considered unsightly advertising by a previous owner.  So I’m left with the image itself.  To my non-expert eye, the style of her dress and her white bonnet, combined with the CDV format, suggest the middle part of the nineteenth century (1850s-70s).  I don’t know what book she’s reading.  Something devotional?  There seems to be a loose page where her finger is inserted.  And I wonder what the tablecloth and carpet look like in color.

6 comments on “Older woman, seated, holding book”

  1. I’m going to guess early 1850’s, judging by the sloping shoulders, the bell-shaped sleeves, and the relatively smaller skirt (as opposed to the giant hoops of the 1860’s).

  2. I would think more mid 1850s because of the sleeves, but she definitely doesn’t have the wide crinoline that came into fashion in 1855. Her bonnet is interesting — all white (it looks) — which was not the fashion, but even more so because of the trimming on her dress. The sheer dark trim on her bodice is more or less on fashionable lines, but the wide band on the hem of her skirt is not, really. That makes me think that she’s wearing half mourning, with a wide band of crape on her skirt hem, and the bodice trimmed with crepe (full mourning would be the dress completely covered with crape), with white collar and bonnet (which would have been all black crepe if in full mourning).

    • It can be challenging when people don’t conform precisely to the expectations of a style. But in some ways I think that makes it fun, too.

  3. I would agree, mid to late 1850’s based on the sleeves and the bodice. Not sure if half-mourning is represented by the wide band on the skirt hem, but the wide band there appears to be wool, and is it possible it was added to make the length proper? Was the original skirt damaged? The “book” she is holding looks to me as if it could be a Union Case photo case (the outside appears to be stamped leather), and her hand is on a piece of paper within it. That would follow with the possiblity of mourning or half-mourning, to have her own photo taken with the remembrance of the deceased Yours in costuming, L isa A.

    • That’s an interesting idea about it being a photo case. I have a few ambrotypes in metal frames, but not cases. (I think I only have one in a case, but it’s completely falling apart.) I tried scanning one the other day, but it didn’t come out. I’ll have to try photographing them instead, since they would be fun to post.

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