Viennese family with six children

What it is:

Cabinet card measuring approx. 4.25 x 6.5 inches.

What I know about it:

Photographer is Alfons Piksa of Vienna.  Otherwise undated and unidentified.


Venturing back into my curiously large assortment of photos from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, here is a family from Vienna.  They seem like a contented enough crew, even if the parents look a little exhausted and the children look a little anemic.  The clothing is interesting, since not only is it period, it’s regionally ethnic.  The father seems to be wearing a medal and holding an unusual pipe.  I’m a little puzzled by the pierrot-like outfit on the boy standing in front of his mother (I’m guessing his collar just isn’t resting properly).  And while I’m sure it’s just an illusion created by poor exposure, the girl on the left seems to be lacking arms.  I’m struck by the setting.  The painted plants in the backdrop, the romantic molding used as the boy’s seat to the right, and the wads of dried grass scattered about fall a bit short of the Elysian splendor that I assume was intended.  And that backdrop!  Can it really be that they used a backdrop that had several feet of damage at the top, exposing whatever was hanging in the studio behind it?  One possibility is that this is a photo reproduced from an existing, but damaged, photo, though it still strikes me as a poor job of masking the damage.  All I know is that it isn’t (for once) damage to my copy.  One other interesting thing is that the photographer’s studio information on the back is printed in both German and (according to Google Translate) Czech.

6 comments on “Viennese family with six children”

  1. I wonder if the Pierrot boy and the boy on the left of the high chair are identical twins.

  2. I’m not sure I see any arms on the boy to the right, either — his sleeves look empty. Maybe they were a performing family, photographed with their own sets and props?

    • Paul, I thought the same thing at first. It takes a moment to spot, but there’s a hand in his lap, between his knees, so I assumed it’s just a weird-fitting outfit. I assumed something similar was going on with the girl on the left, but who knows. It’s possible they are a performing family, though these seem to me like fairly standard photo studio set pieces for that time. Hard to say. Looking at photos of famous people from other sources (eBay or other online sites), it’s interesting how many of them are not identified. I even have another old Viennese one of some guy that is signed on the bottom like an autograph, but I can’t figure out who it is or if he was at all notable!

  3. I think the girl’s sleeves are just way too long (and/or she’s wearing white gloves?) and that her hands are on her lap.

    My guess on the upper-right-corner issue is that either it’s a ruffled curtain in front of the backdrop (pretend it’s a giant umbrella over a table sitting just out of the shot) or that Mr. Piksa took a picture of an old photo that was deteriorating.

    • Hi Jenn! Yes, we’re thinking along the same lines on this. The only thing is that the more I look at the edge where the ruffles meet the wall, the more it looks like the ruffles are behind the wall. Still, I could be mistaken. And if it were a new photo of a damaged old photo, I’m not sure why the damaged part wouldn’t be a more discreet area, not all distractingly ruffly. There may even be some explanation we haven’t thought of. 🙂

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