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Archive for the ‘1870s Ireland’ Category

CDV-M-Allen&Co-500

There is so much to like in this hand coloured carte-de-visite from the Dublin studio of M. Allen of 12 Westland Row. In addition to the sea themed backdrop, with its sailing boat on the horizon, the papier mâché rock creates a virtual beach for the lavishly dressed young boy. His two-piece suit of light material includes a jacket with long-sleeves gathered into cuffs. These are trimmed with a band of colour as are the side seams and edges of his shorts. A matching ribbon adorns his straw hat. Candy stripped cotton stockings complement his flat buckled slippers. His elaborate hairstyle of long ringlets with a short fringe is very similar to another little boy’s taken by the same studio in May 1873.

The hand tinting is very well executed and is probably the work of Miss Margaret Allen (1832-1914), the daughter of the studio owner, Mark Allen. Her family had a long association with the Dublin art world and sold art supplies and lithographs. She was definitely involved in the photographic side of her father’s business as an advertisement from 1871 states that “Miss Allen pays particular attention to the photographing of babies and young children.” She was an honorary member of the Royal Hibernian Academy and a notice in The Irish Times of the 21st October 1861 states that she ran classes in ‘Drawing and Painting from Life.’ It informed the people of Dublin that “Miss Allen begs to announce that her academy is open on Tuesday and Friday from nine till five o’clock. A living model poses from ten till three.” Miss Allen’s father died in 1879 and she spent her final years in various boarding houses in Dublin listing her income as “an allowance from a friend.”

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This post is about photography but it doesn’t include any photographs! The graphics used by Victorian photographers on the backs of their cartes-de-visite were often as interesting as their photographs.

The earliest were backed by copperplate signatures or simple coloured logos. In later decades, Victorian ornamentation intertwined elaborate fonts around stylised flowers and patterns. Art Nouveau influences are to be found in the early 20th century before a return to plainer modernist styles in the 1920s and 30s. The backs I have featured here are all from Irish studios of the 1860s and 70s.

During this period printers often used different coloured inks for photographers’ logos and the ones featured here include an attractive aquamarine, chocolate brown and indigo.

Several of the logos include line drawings of the large box cameras which were used in studios during this period. In addition to the expected camera motif various signs and symbols recur such as the sun and artists’ easels and palettes. Palettes are visible on three of the Irish cards emphasising the artistic nature of photographers.

In attempt to give their studios prestige and pedigree two of the above studios have adopted mottoes. Adolphe of Grafton Street uses ‘Nunquam non paratus’  meaning ‘never unprepared.’ and Thomas North, also of Grafton Street used ‘animo et fide’ which means ‘courageously and faithfully’. One wonders how much courage was required to run a photographic studio during the period?

Other heraldic devices include the belt and buckle which encircles the box camera on the carte by Adolphe and the griffin like creature which appears on the example from A.D. Roche in Cork.

Early designs were probably commissioned from local printers using designs copied from other cards. As the industry grew and progressed specialised firms, based mainly in France and Germany, mass-produced cards which could be customised to include the local studio details. An example by one such company, Marion, was used by Hugh Kerr from Northern Ireland. Roger Vaughan has written a very detailed guide to dating the cards produced by this company which is available here and shows that the card above was from the company’s earlier period of the 1860s or 70s.

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The above photograph is a single page from a large album and the caption reads ‘Finaghy House, Belfast, Our home for 4 years. Geoffrey was born in the room with large window on the left’. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to identify who this Geoffrey was though it is likely to be one of the Charley family who owned the house up until about 1885.

The house was then purchased by the Brewis family whose claim to fame is that they bred some of the first Corgi dogs owned by the English Royal family! It is now a nursing home and I think the formal gardens in front of the house have changed considerably. 

I reckon that the above image dates from either the 1870s or early 1880s, as the woman’s outfit includes an elaborately draped top skirt and silhouette which was typical of the period. However, as I cannot see the extent of the bustle it is quite hard to give a precise date.

Overall, I like the careful positioning of the figures within the landscape and the caption which shows the importance of this place for one family. 

 

 

 

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