BURK_0005This cabinet card portrait, photographed by A. D. Burk and Co. presents a gender mystery. A stage performer wearing an effeminate stage costume by today’s standards, is the subject of this portrait. Note the subjects frilly shirt and jacket, and the feathered hat. Also take note of the subjects long curly hair and hanging curls. Are we looking at a handsome actor or a pretty actress? My guess is actress. The photographer, Alcynus D. Burk worked in Cleveland from 1889, when he partnered with David Bailey until 1900 or later.


Published in: on March 28, 2014 at 12:21 pm  Comments (8)  
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  1. Neat picture. I think its a man…sort of like Tony Hart (Anthony J. Cannon) who played both male and female roles, loved to dress up, and was no stranger to wigs. But what do I know? Just a thought. … and I surely enjoy these postings.

  2. Yes, I think it’s a young man, too, in the Edwardian stage version of 18th century French court dress. Despite the long ringlets and the soft features, if it were a woman dressed as a man for a “pants role” (a traditional type of theater role featuring a young woman dressed as and playing a young male character, but still visibly female), I would expect the costume to be much tighter-fitting, the actress to be visibly wearing a corset, and the breeches to be both tighter and shorter in length to show off the legs. Neat photo, though. One of my great-grandmothers was on the stage in Vienna, Austria around the same time, and we have some of her publicity shots in costume, although nothing where she’s dressed as a young man. We do have one where she’s dressed as a lady of the French court in the 18th century, though! I wonder what show this was from?

  3. This is actor Maurice Barrymore, born Herbert Blythe (1849-1905). It is a heck of a find. He is a very young man here and had either just come to America, 1874 or had this taken before he left England and carried the plates with him. I think it’s an American portrait looking at the type of painted back drop. It’s definitely the 1870s. Whatever the story these photographers acquired the plates during their years of operation or had them and maybe printed/published them after 1889. I’ll tell you how I identified Barrymore. Maurice had a distinctive cleft in his chin just like his son legendary John Barrymore. If you expand this photo (I used Windows Photo Viewer) you can see there’s a rectangular patch across his chin. This was to disguise the cleft and his identity from his English family who did not want him to become an actor. He had changed his name from Blythe to Barrymore and did not want his family to find him out in his new profession. Barrymore’s eyes were by accounts ‘northern grey’ and they register light here. You can compare this photo, his eyes, posture, stance etc. with other portraits of him on GoogleImages(as I did), Yahoo, Fanpix and so forth. ….Once again, an amazing find that only adds to the Barrymore saga.

    Thanks to whoever uploaded.

  4. As another writer stated, this is 18th century garb for a male. A typical costume and hair style. – The clothes are not “effeminate”. They are a style of clothing common to men of that time – especially in a theatre piece. It was a pretty heterosexual world back then.

  5. This may not be for a play. He may be wearing ‘prop’ clothing specifically for this photograph sitting. This is just one plate, there may be more from this session. The clothes are 1700s type highwayman or adventurer clothing. The ‘prop’ clothing is used here much in the way we’d use ‘prop’ clothing or pieces to take a high school graduation picture today.

    • I really think this is Tony Hart, but can’t prove it. Pictures of him (for comparison) seem really scarce. But what I find is persuasive. He died young (mid-thirties). This costume would be quite in keeping with some of what he did. He played both men and women … questioning eyebrows were raised about him. If I am wrong, shame on me.

  6. The first thing I though of when I saw the picture, is that it reminds me of “The Blue Boy”, a painting by Thomas Gainsborough.

    • Great observation. I see the similarity.

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