Who Do You Think You Are?
Who is the baby in this picture?
QCould you help me date this photo of my great grandmother with a baby? Her eldest daughter was born in 1893, but in the 1891 census she had two boys – one aged four years, the other four months. These boys died – could this be one of them?
Janice (Penny) Munden
AThis professional card-mounted studio portrait appears to be a carte de visite
(CDV) print, a format fashionable in Britain from 1860, remaining popular until the 1890s. The date of this portrait can be narrowed down to the late 1800s or the
1 DRESS SLEEVES
The slight puff at the shoulders of your great grandmother’s sleeves could imply a date of c1890 or slightly later.
High late-Victorian necklines were usually ornamented with a brooch. The circular brooches of the 1880s were gradually superseded by narrow bar brooches during the early 1890s.
The baby, sitting up but supported carefully behind his back, may well have been photographed around the time of his first birthday – an important occasion worthy of a special portrait.
4 CONTRASTING FABRICS
Contrasting velvet and woollen (or mixed cloth) materials, including whole garments, were especially fashionable throughout the 1880s and early 1890s.
5 STUDIO PROP
The shaggy, fur-like rug or throw on which the baby sits was a studio prop first introduced around the beginning of the 1880s, providing a helpful clue for dating the photograph. early 1900s from the mount style. The photograph itself provides an even more precise timeframe of c1888–1892.
Your great grandmother is fashionably dressed in a tight-fitting buttoned bodice with narrow sleeves and contrasting skirt displaying a divided front arrangement and fullness around the hips – a formal daytime costume characteristic of the turn of the 1880s/1890s. Her baby, aged about one year, wears the typical short-sleeved, full-skirted, white baby frock favoured for infants at the crawling or toddling stage. He/she could be of either sex as tiny girls and boys were dressed alike; however, the 1888–1892 date here firmly rules out your great grandmother’s eldest daughter, instead confirming your suspicion that this baby is one of the two boys born in 1887 and late 1890, who sadly died in infancy. Jayne Shrimpton