Happy girl in a mysterious shirt

Click here to see it larger.

What it is:

Photo measuring approx. 3.25 x 5.5 inches.

What I know about it:

Nothing!  Undated and unidentified.


Well, mysterious to me, anyway.  Every time I’d go through a particular box, I would always stop at this photo.  It’s not the most dazzling photo, it’s not extraordinarily old, she’s not the most stunningly beautiful subject, etc.  And yet her smile gets me every time, and makes me pause to look at it.  Some people look like they have composed a smile onto their faces for the camera, and other people radiate genuine happiness.  To me, she falls into the latter category.  So I decided to share it, hoping it would have the same effect on others.  But then as I pulled it out and got ready to scan it, I thought, “Wait!  What the heck is going on with that shirt!?”  This wouldn’t be the first time one striking feature of a photo had blinded me to some other significant aspect.  I had noticed that the shirt was rather busy, but I hadn’t noticed that it’s rather bizarre.  What is all that writing on it?  I tried flipping the scan, and it does look more like letters than as we see it, but it still doesn’t seem to be recognizable words.  Are we supposed to be able to read it?  Did the photographer accidentally print the negative in reverse?  And those other patterns and symbols.  Do they signify something, or are they just pretty?  Is she a spy sending us a coded message?  Once again, just as I thought I was going to do a quickie post of some simple, pleasant image, some weirdness rears its head.  But hey, at least this one didn’t involve an hour or so of internet searching to try to figure things out (though, of course, it may do so if anybody can point me in the right direction, since for all I know this may have been a perfectly popular style of shirt in its day that I’ve just never heard of).  Meanwhile, let her smile brighten your day a bit.

6 comments on “Happy girl in a mysterious shirt”

  1. I can’t undestand the period this photo has been taken, in my opinion the print is some sort of illuminated manuscript’s reproduction, in fact the largest signs seem historiated initials. I think her necklace is interesting too.

    • Yes, I think you’re right! Now that you mention it, it does resemble the design of an illuminated manuscript. Thanks for pointing that out. As for a time period, I think it’s sometime around the 1920s-1930s, though I could easily wrong.

  2. I also flipped the picture. On her bustline, next to the rather baroque treble clef, it looks like the word “domine.” I’d have to learn Latin to find if other words look familiar.

    • You know, I saw that, but it somehow didn’t register with me. Now it makes perfect sense in the context of illuminated manuscripts. Thank goodness for my readers to point out the obvious to me! 🙂

  3. I think the pattern is based on medieval music books–those little squares are how they used to represent notes: http://tinyurl.com/85ftv8e

    I would put the photo in the late 20s or early 30s. Jazzy patterns were popular then (although in this case, it seems anti-jazz!). I think the young lady is pretty moderne, with her busy fabric and streamlined jewelry.

    • Great link! Yes, I think that’s what we’re looking at. It’s such an interesting combination, taking this non-jazzy music and jazzing it up to the style of the day, using what is geometric about the old style to make an interesting new one. I love it! I wonder what it looked like in color.

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