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Posts Tagged ‘Victorian Children’

adacowper500

This little girl, Ada Josephine Cowper, was born in Dublin in 1865 and her family lived at 29 Fitzwilliam Place. Thanks to the online availability of church records I have been able to find out something about her life. Her marriage, at the age of twenty-seven, to Ernest Henry Knox resulted in a move to his family home Greenwoodpark, Crossmolina, County Mayo where he was a land agent. The house which was built in 1814 is now a ruin.

Ada had two children, Ada Eveleen and the exotically named Zinna Ethel! Zinna married into the Toler-Aylward family of Shankill Castle, Paulstown, County Kilkenny and it was there that Ada senior died at the age of 71 on the 6th of November 1936!

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The grandly named Royal Panopticon of Science & Art was run by James Simonton. It opened to much fanfare in 1862, five years’ before Ada’s photograph was taken. Simonton had been involved in several photographic partnerships prior to this solo endeavour. Before establishing himself at 70 Grafton Street (note the typo on the card above), he was based on Dublin’s other main thoroughfare, Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street).

Simonton spared no expense on the decoration and design of his new premises and an article in The Irish Builder of July 1862 elaborates upon the studio’s mahogany fittings, spacious staircase adorned with sculpture and ‘encaustic tile pavement and richly ornamented soffet.’ In addition to the photographic trade Simonton also displayed paintings, dioramas and scientific inventions. At the time of his marriage in 1859 to Frances Isabella Harricks he listed his occupation as ‘artist’ so it is no surprise that he was to host discussions on artistic matters.

Simonton’s business thrived during the 1860s and early 70s as he benefited from the carte-de-visite craze, however, he announced in 1875 that he was retiring from the ‘fancy goods’ trade and filed for bankruptcy in 1876. He attempted to open a public house in the 1880s but his application for a licence was not successful. Instead, he reverted to photography and entered into partnership with a man called Edwards with whom he ran a business at 28 Grafton Street until 1883.

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The elaborate outfits worn by these two little sisters are typical of the styles of the 1860s. Bell-shaped crinolines were worn at a shorter length by girls and reveal lace-up boots with patent leather toecaps. Their hair is parted in the middle and the straw bonnet matches the monochrome theme of their summer clothes. 

Thankfully someone had the foresight to date the image which was taken in 1862 by the studio of F.H. Mares, whose work I have previously featured on this blog. The studio was located on Grafton Street near to the business of Mademoiselle de Groots. According to The Irish Times of Wednesday 22nd October 1862, her warehouse at number 45 sold the following items which she had recently obtained in Paris: “corsets et ceintures; lingerie, crinolines, zouaves, etc.”

The Zouave jacket is a coloured and sometimes braided garment based on the uniform of an infantry regiment of the French Army. The were very popular during this period as illustrated by fashion plates from Godey’s Magazine.

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In the course of researching this post, I discovered that Dundrearies are long, full sideburns like those worn by the man in this photograph. They became popular in the 1860s and are named after the actor Edward A. Sothern who played the role of Lord Dundreary in Our American Cousin. Piccadilly weepers were another pretty similar style of mutton-chop sideburns. Both are great descriptive terms which have fallen out of use.

This portrait was taken by Frederick H. Mares, probably in the late 1860s or early 1870s, at his studio at 79 Grafton Street, Dublin. He moved from this location in 1875 to another building called The Grafton Studio, at 118 Grafton Street (opposite Trinity College).

The smiling child and the interaction between the sitters are not usual for studio portraits of the era. There is quite a lot going on in background too. Given the small size of the original image (2⅛ × 3½ inches) the tinting is actually quite well executed. The artist who painted the backdrop has cleverly left a break in the scenery into which the sitter could be positioned.

The patterned flooring is the same as that shown on a series of portraits from the studio held by the Minnesota Historical Society which date from the early 1870s.

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