EARLY CABINET CARD PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN IN A BLACK DRESS (MOURNING PHOTO)

This early cabinet card portrait features a seated older woman wearing a black dress. This is likely a mourning photo. The woman has a stoic expression. She is posed in front of a stark backdrop. The woman’s name, the name of  the photographer, and the location of the studio, are all unknown. This cabinet card photo is in excellent condition (see scans).

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Published in: on June 30, 2020 at 12:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Unless it’s documented as a mourning photo, I hesitate to label a photo as such. We know that colors photographed differently in the wet plate process. This dress could have been blue or red or yellow. Part of the misunderstanding comes from the change in technology in the 20th century that shows gradients of gray that are more indicative of the actual shade or vibrancy of color of the clothing.

    • Thank you for sharing your knowledge about mourning attire. I understand your point about not assuming a dark dress is a mourning dress. On another related topic;, i have read that as women came out of mourning they could wear lighter than black dresses. For example dark purple and grey were acceptable. Bright colors and shiny fabrics were inappropriate. Is my description accurate?

      • Yes – the color choices changed over the period of mourning and also related to regional customs and the relationship to the deceased. For instance, one would not be in a two year mourning for a distant cousin. Half mourning allowed for grays, purples and lavender. I’m definitely not an expert here and this photo led me to ask some others who I do trust for mourning customs. Mostly my question to them was would a person in mourning document their sadness in this way. That may have been impacted by the persons social status – Mary Todd Lincoln vs a regular person may have had different customs they followed. MTL was photographed after her son’s death, for instance, and was in mourning clothing. She was also the First Lady and expected to set an example for the nation. It’s a fascinating topic to say the least.

      • The topic is indeed fascinating. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and research.


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