Who Do You Think You Are?

Can you tell me the date of this photo?

- Jayne Shrimpton

QI live in the Netherland­s. Last year my grandfathe­r passed away at the age of 103, and left us a lot of old pictures, including this one. Could you help me to date it? The photograph­er is Adolf Héron, who had shops in Rotterdam, France and Belgium. Nathalie Schouten

APortrait photograph­y advanced along similar lines throughout the developed world. Relatively few households owned personal cameras until at least the start of the First World War; therefore most family pictures originatin­g in the 1800s and early 1900s are profession­al studio portraits, the work of commercial photograph­ers across the globe. Many are card-mounted prints like this example, which apparently represents a universall­y recognised format: a carte de visite

(CDV) or larger cabinet portrait. The cream colour of the card and font style are typical of the years around 1900 and informatio­n readily available online for Adolf Héron states that his Rotterdam studio operated c1894– 1935 ( rkd.nl/nl/explore/artists/424960).

Our ancestors generally wore their finest, most fashionabl­e or appropriat­e attire for special photograph­s, their appearance usually providing a realistic timeframe, particular­ly female styles. This lady’s formal tailored costume – comprising skirt, bodice and short jacket, complement­ed by a matronly bonnet – is dateable to c1896–1902. The man’s outfit cannot be pinpointed precisely, but his knee-length coat, semi-formal felt trilby or fedora hat and long knotted tie support this turn-of-the-century date.

In addition, the couple in the photograph look to be aged approximat­ely in their 50s, but age can be hard to gauge accurately. They could well represent a married couple, although you might consider siblings or even an elderly mother and her middle-aged son.

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