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H5734 Photographic positive, ambrotype, hand-painted, mounted in case, studio portrait of a woman and baby, collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / metal / velvet, photographer unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1855-1875. Click to enlarge.

Ambrotype of a woman and baby

Made
This photograph is significant because it is one of the few surviving hand-painted ambrotypes with links to Australia. While millions of these ambrotype photographs were produced around the world and many thousands in Australia remarkably few have survived that can be linked to Australian society during the 1850s and 1860s. Although the sitter in the portrait is currently unidentified the museum recognises the importance of maintaining its collection of ambrotypes as examples of the fashion …

Summary

Object No.

H5734

Object Statement

Photographic positive, ambrotype, hand-painted, mounted in case, studio portrait of a woman and baby, collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / metal / velvet, photographer unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1855-1875

Physical Description

Photographic positive, hand-painted ambrotype mounted in case, studio portrait of a woman and baby, collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / metal / velvet, photographer unknown, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1855-1875

An ambrotype showing a 3/4 length portrait of a woman nursing a baby. The woman is seated and wears a dress with a full skirt, long sleeves and a lace collar. The baby wears a long white gown and bonnet. The portrait has been hand coloured with baby's gown highlighted in white and the jewellery worn by the woman painted gold. A pattern can be seen painted in the background of the image and a red curtain has been painted down the right hand side of the image. The ambrotype is enclosed in a hinged case made from wood that has been covered in leather. However the lid of the case has broken off and separated from the base. The ambrotype, which sits in the base of the case and is covered in a glass panel, then framed by an arch shaped brass mat. The lid of the case is lined with green velvet that features a decorative floral pattern. Two metal hooks on the side of the case would have allowed the case to be closed securely.

Dimensions

Width

190 mm

Depth

10 mm

Production

Notes

In 1851 Frederick Scott Archer announced the discovery of a new photographic process that could adhere to glass. This was a major breakthrough in the story of photography for the process made clear highly detailed negatives form which multiple copies could be made.

The general public had become used to their photographic portraits being taken using a daguerreotype process which were displayed in a small glass fronted case. To compete with this trade a special kind of collodion process, known as the ambrotype was introduced. This was essentially the same as other collodion negatives except that once the exposure had been taken the emulsion on the glass was bleached to whiten it. When this bleached negative was placed in a case against a black background it formed a positive image which bore a remarkable resemblance to the daguerreotype except it had the added advantage of not being highly reflective.

Australia followed rather than set photographic trends but in the 1850s, the massive boom caused by the discovery of gold ensured it was very quick to take up new processes like the ambrotype. Over the 1850s the ambrotype replaced the daguerreotype as the preferred method of taking portraits but even in the late 1850s daguerreotypes were still being made for more conservative customers.

Geoff Barker, Curatorial, September 2009

References
J. Cato, The Story of the Camera in Australia, Third Edition, Institute of Australian Photography, Hong Kong, 1979
Michel Frizot, A New History of Photography, Amilcare Pizzi, Milan, 1998
Helmut and Alison Gernsheim, A Concise History of Photography, Thames and Hudson, Germany, 1965
A. Davies and P. Stanbury, 1985, The Mechanical Eye in Australia, Oxford University Press, Melbourne

Source

Credit Line

Gift of F Holmes, 1958

Acquisition Date

11 February 1958

Cite this Object

Harvard

Ambrotype of a woman and baby 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 25 June 2022, <https://ma.as/244096>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/244096 |title=Ambrotype of a woman and baby |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=25 June 2022 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}