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Archive for the ‘Carte de Visite Portraits’ Category

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Carte-de-visite by John Lawrence, Dublin, 1860s Source: Author’s collection

This carte-de-visite photograph was taken in the 1860s at John Fortune Lawrence’s photographic studio and Civet Cat Bazaar. The cat referred to in the business name is a nocturnal mammal associated with ‘fox dung coffee’ which is produced when coffee berries are harvested from the droppings of the Asian palm civet! In addition to a photographic studio, Lawrence also sold toys, sports equipment and fancy goods from his premises at 39 Grafton Street, Dublin.

This little girl, standing doll-like on a studio chair, is wearing an off-the-shoulder wide hemmed silk dress which typifies the 1860s. A single string of coral was believed to protect her health. She wears bloomers and white socks with black patent leather hook-and-eye boots. The hairstyle is very on trend: short, parted in the middle and swept behind her ears with a hairband. Overall her outfit is very like that worn by Princess Beatrice in a photo session from May 1860. In it Beatrice was photographed with her mother Queen Victoria by John Jabez Edwin Mayall and you can see here that her hairstyle, necklace and boots are very similar.

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Advertisement for Brown, Thomas, and Co., The Nation, 16th April 1864

In 1864, Lawrence employed the architect William George Murray to design several additions to his building (now a Burger King) including a ‘large wareroom, archery gallery for butt shooting and photographic gallery with waiting rooms.’

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Verso of carte-de-visite by John Lawrence, Dublin, 1860s Source: Author’s collection

Advertisements placed by Lawrence reveal Dublin’s rich consumer culture and the wide variety of products that were available. Many of the toys were imported from Germany or France and included magic lanterns, wax and rag dolls, dissected maps, bon-bon boxes, dolls’ houses, clock work toys, panoramas, racing games and tool chests.

Some of the games and toys are unfamiliar to us today, for example, Cannonade was a game of chance played with a teetotum (a small spinning top); Fantoccini figures were puppets imported directly from Italy. Pope Joan was a card game played on a round board. In December 1856, Lawrence offered two very topical games based on the Crimean War: Battle of Inkerman and Siege of Sebastopol.

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Siege of Sebastopol game, Bodleian Libraries

Lawrence was constantly diversifying. In the late 1850s he sold birds and bird cages including parrots, java sparrows, waxbills and indigo birds. In March 1854, he announced that he was the pyrotechnic artist to the Lord Lieutenant. Selling many kinds of fireworks and offering to forward them ‘to all parts of the Kingdom, and competent persons sent to fire them, if required.’ He also made rocking horses covered in natural skins!

In 1863 Lawrence advertises that he is offering the carte-de-visite process along with coloured photographs and he sold albums and celebrity carte-de-visites. One of these was a photograph of General Burke ‘taken since his arrest.’ Burke [Bourke in some notices] was a Fenian leader who was arrested in April 1867. Lawrence was not the only studio selling political carte-de-visites. His notice in The Freeman’s Journal of the 7th of June 1867, appeared alongside one from Lesage’s studio, at 40 Lower Sackville Street which announced the sale of cartes depicting General Burke, John McCafferty and Patrick Doran ‘taken from life in Kilmainham Jail.’ They had been arrested and sentenced to death for high treason causing much uproar during that summer. After large demonstrations their sentences were eventually commuted mainly upon the strength of Burke and McCafferty’s claims to American citizenship. Both had fought in the American Civil War. A photo of McCafferty by Lesage is held in the National Library of Ireland and you can see what he looked like here.

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The Freeman’s Journal, 7th June 1867

John Lawrence (1833-1897) ran his Grafton Street studio from 1854 until 1884 when it was taken over by Louis Werner. Lawrence’s negatives were taken over by his brother William Lawrence whose better known studio was on Sackville street (now O’Connell Street).

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This pair of cartes de visite typify the type of inexpensive studio portrait produced in the 1860s and 70s. They are remarkably similar even though they were taken by two different studios on Westmoreland Street, Dublin.  The crude tinting blurred the individual features and produces a mask-like appearance. Only the painted backdrop and furniture styles differentiate the studios from each other. 

Despite the claims of excellence made by both studios, they display a standardisation of pose that the format’s detractors frequently pointed out. The craze for these inexpensive portraits reached its peak on the 1860s and this is reflected by the sheer number of studios on three of the main streets of the capital: Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street); Westmoreland Street and Grafton Street. This strip became known as ‘The photographic mile’ and at one time boasted over 60 studios.

The man with the tinted cheeks was taken by Forster’s who were  according to an 1868 advertisement situated on the ‘drawing room’ floor of  30 Westmoreland Street.  Access was through the front door of the New Medical Hall. Forster  entered into several partnerships – in March 1862 he was in business with Mr. A.J. Scott, however, by February 16th, 1864 he was working alongside T.F. Haskoll. This partnership was in turn dissolved by 1864 when Haskoll set up on his studio own at 118 Grafton Street.

The firm of Lauder appears to have been more stable venture as it continued in business into the 20th century. Another branch of the family started the famous and highly successful Lafayette studio. The following advertisement by Lauder from 1878 gives an indication of the claims made by the studios “Lauder have made most important alterations and improvements in their principal galleries, by means of which photographs are now produced in half the usual time, thereby rendering them more natural, pleasing and successful, and have spared no expense in providing the best lenses and apparatus and a great variety of new and beautiful scenery accessories.”

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