Saturday, December 2, 2017

Historical Series (#8) 1858-1860's Ambrotype - Early Photography

I've finally completed my early photography collection, with this 1858-1860's ambrotype. The ambrotype came after the daguerreotype, (the earliest form of successful photography). 


Her dress is from the late 1850's. This silk and satin dress is a very good example of an 1858 dress. The wide flowing sleeves, (almost medieval looking), and the very full skirt with hoops. Our lady appears to be around 40-50 years old. She's holding a book. Did she like to read? Was she scholarly? A teacher? It could also be a prayer book. I've decided to call her Jane. After Jane Eyre, one of my favorite classics.


Ambrotypes were often hand tinted. You can see our lady had her cheeks tinted. They were also sometimes gilded for embellishment. It's faded, but her brooch, the front of her dress, and cuff show remnants of shiny gold gild.


The case is wood with leather embossing. Inside is embossed red velvet, and a fancy frame. There is also faded gold paint, which made a pretty vine design around the inside of the case.



The metal latch is intact, and there's spiral, sort of sun burst design engraved on the metal.


While the daguerreotype image was produced on a shiny silver plate, the ambrotype was exposed onto a small piece of glass. Ambrotypes were produced between 1850 into the late 1860's, until the tintype replaced it.

If you remove an ambrotype from its case and hold it up to a light background you can see how the image appears as a negative. Earlier ambrotypes were produced with two panes of glass, the image sandwiched. Later ones like mine were made on a single sheet of glass. The single sheets are more delicate, because the image is directly exposed on the back of the glass; making it impossible to clean without damaging the photograph irreparably.


To view the ambrotype photograph properly, a dark background was needed. Dark paper or cloth was usually used in the back of the union case. Later on some ambrotypes had a dark lacquer applied to the back of the image.


Collection complete! The daguerreotype, ambrotype, and tintype were the earliest forms of successful photography.

Historical Series:

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