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H5849-2 Photographic positive, studio portrait, hand-tinted ambrotype of the grand-son of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier, collodion / paint / glass / wood / paper / metal / velvet, photographer unknown, England, 1855-1870. Click to enlarge.

Grandson 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.

H5849-2

Object Statement

Photographic positive, studio portrait, hand-tinted ambrotype of the grand-son 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-son 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 boy wearing a tartan outfit and a hat with a feather stuck in it. The boy stands next to a table with one arm resting on the table. The image has been tinted with the boys cheeks pink, the tartan outfit green, red and blue and the braid on his hat gold.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 top of the frame to allow the portrait to be hung for display. There is a rectangular wooden backing board in the back of the frame.

Dimensions

Width

270 mm

Depth

35 mm

Production

Made

England 1855-1870

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

Cite this Object

Harvard

Grandson of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 8 December 2019, <https://ma.as/244538>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/244538 |title=Grandson of Vice-Admiral Charles John Napier |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=8 December 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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