IMAGE FROM THE PAST
Your old photographs analysed by our expert Audrey Linkman
Audrey Linkman tells us about a married couple, captured on camera.
This lovely wedding portrait was sent for analysis by Catharine Dickens, who lives in Surrey. Catharine bought the cabinet portrait at a flea market, because she found it so appealing. Does it tell us anything about the couple or the occasion?
Our groom is impeccably dressed for the occasion, wearing a dark, double-breasted frock coat, faced with silk. It is teamed with striped trousers, a dark waistcoat, light tie, and starched, high-standing collar. He carries his leather gloves and a silk top hat, the ‘correct’ accompaniment for his frock coat. By the Edwardian period, frock coats were associated with the upper, middle and professional classes and were considered correct wear at weddings - for those who could afford them. It’s interesting to note that he sports a buttonhole, but the bride’s bouquet does not feature in the portrait, possibly because it would hide the detail of the dress.
HER ARM IN HIS
This pose, where both bride and groom are portrayed full length with her arm in his, is relatively common in marriage portraits, and best reveals the detail of the bride’s dress. However, its full significance is lost if we do not understand the message it conveyed to a contemporary audience. According to an etiquette book of the Victorian period: ‘A married lady usually leans upon the arm of her husband… Single ladies do not in the day time take the arm of a gentleman, unless they wish to acknowledge their engagement.’
According to www.photolondon.org.uk, the Charles Treble studio was located at 270 Lavender Hill, Battersea, from 1895 to 1909. This database reveals that Treble (1857-1932) listed his occupation as an artist in the 1881 census and joined the Photographic Society in 1892 (this became the Royal Photographic Society in 1894). Treble’s artistic ambition is demonstrated by sending work to exhibitions and evidenced in this portrait by the simple elegance of the pose and the choice of a sketchy, frothy, backdrop to complement the frilly, delicate intricacy of the bride’s outfit.
WHITE WEDDING DRESS
The tradition of a white wedding dress developed only gradually over the course of the 19th century, with royal brides setting the pattern. Increasing numbers of brides wore white from the 1880s, and by 1900, white was becoming established as the accepted colour for wedding dresses by all classes. Although material and trimmings may have been of higher quality, Victorian and Edwardian wedding dresses followed the prevailing fashions of the day, as we see in this charming Edwardian confection. In place of veils, Edwardian brides frequently opted to wear an exuberant, widebrimmed hat lavishly adorned with ribbons, lace, and feathers that also followed the fashion of the day. This dress, because it was so fashionable, would probably be worn after the wedding as Sunday best and for special occasions.