The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences acknowledges Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and gives respect to the Elders – past and present – and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that the MAAS website contains a range of Indigenous Cultural Material. This includes artworks, artifacts, images and recordings of people who may have passed away, and other objects which may be culturally sensitive.
H5849-1 Photographic positive, studio portrait, hand-tinted ambrotype of the grand-daughter of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier, collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / metal / velvet, photographer unknown, England, 1855-1870. Click to enlarge.

Portrait of grand-daughter of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier

Made in England, 1855-1870.

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.

Even by these standards this photograph is exceptional for two main reasons. Firstly it is an unusually large (280 x 320 mm) and finely hand tinted and framed ambrotype. Se...

Summary

Object No.

H5849-1

Object Statement

Photographic positive, studio portrait, hand-tinted ambrotype of the grand-daughter of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier, collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / metal / velvet, photographer unknown, England, 1855-1870

Physical Description

Photographic positive, studio portrait, hand-tinted ambrotype of the grand-daughter of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier, collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / metal / velvet, photographer unknown, England, 1855-1870

An ambrotype showing a full length portrait of a young girl wearing a tartan dress with a ruffle skirt. The girl stands next to a table with one arm resting on the table. A vase holding a bunch of flowers sits on the table. The image has been tinted with the girls cheeks pink, the tartan outfit green, red and blue and the flowers red and green.The ambrotype is framed by an oval brass mat stamped with an ornate decorative pattern. A glass panel sits over the top of the brass mat. The portrait has been set in a in a rectangular wooden frame carved with a decorative design. There are two circular eyes fixed to the back of the frame to allow the portrait to be hung for display. The backing board inserted into the frame is in two halves and there is a paper label adhered to one half.

Marks

Handwritten text on paper label adhered to backing board reads 'Vice Admiral Sir Charles Napier K.C.B.'

Dimensions

Width

280 mm

Depth

45 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

Made

England 1855-1870

Cite this Object

Harvard

Portrait of grand-daughter of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 20 September 2019, <https://ma.as/244537>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/244537 |title=Portrait of grand-daughter of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=20 September 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

Know more about this object?

TELL US

Have a question about this object?

ASK US