THE ENIGMATIC SISTERS OF MONTAGUE, MICHIGAN

This cabinet card presents an enigma. How can this photograph be interpreted? The image features, what are likely, three sisters, gathered around a table. Each of the young woman is holding a book, but only one of the three has their book open. So? What’s the enigma? The mystery concerns the fact that prominently displayed on the table is a picture frame without a picture. The missing picture hasn’t wandered too far away. It can be seen lying on the table, face up, in front of the frame. Hopefully, a cabinet card gallery visitor will leave a comment with their hypothesis as to why the frame and picture are separated in this image. The photographer of this portrait was Theodore A.Wirsing (1865-1938) of Montague, Michigan. Research about Wirsing yielded confusing information. He is reported to have had a studio in Annandale, Minnesota in 1902  and a studio in Maple Lakes, Minnesota in 1902 and 1914. Another source states that Wirsing ran his gallery in Montague between 1890 and 1910. He and his wife, Lillian Bovee Wirsing (1865-1930) are buried in Michigan. Wirsing can also be found in four United States census reports. In 1900, he was living in a boarding house in Corinna, Minnesota, and working as a photographer. He was unmarried. In 1910, Wirsing was living in Annandale, Minnesota and listed as a photographer. .He was also married. In 1920, he was still living in Annandale, Minnesota and he was managing a photographic gallery. In 1930, the 64 year-old, Wirsing, and his wife, were living in Bellingham, Washington. The census also states that Theodore Wirsing was working as a carpenter in Bellingham.

Published in: on February 29, 2012 at 12:01 am  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. beautiful, their individual expressions!

  2. That’s a gorgeous picture. I don’t know the answer to your question, but it’s fun to guess. My first thought is that, rather than being an empty picture frame, it might just be the light reflecting brightly on the glass, or it might even be a mirror. But I noticed that the women are posed with props in a way that makes them look like they have been caught in the middle of ladylike pastimes such as reading. The book that the standing woman is holding may actually be a photo album, implying that sorting photos is one of the activities being engaged in. And if the items on display are props provided from the photography studio, it might be odd if the photo in the frame were a random prop showing people unrelated to the girls here. So it was placed on the table to indicate the activity without being readily identifiable. That’s just a guess, but does that make sense?

  3. I agree with Matt, plus I read recently that photographers made cabinet cards to sell as place holders, images of famous people like Geo & Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, etc. The photo could be a prop item used in the artistic placement of the ladies occupied in ladylike activities.


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