4/09/2008

Photo of the week - Agnes Nielsen


Date: 1880's
Sitter: Agnes Nielsen
Photographer: Chr. Neuhaus
Provenience: Copenhagen, Denmark

According to the handwritten text at the back of the photo the sitter is Agnes Nielsen, aged 8 years - and a later note states that her married surname was Berlin. That is all that is known about this young girl.

Like children from the better classes were prone to do at this time, at least at formal occasions, she wears clothing that is a copy of adult wear of the time. There is no date on this photo, but her dress suggests a date somewhere in the 1880's. The only really obvious difference between her and a more grown up person is that she is obviously not wearing a corset. That does not mean that she doesn't wear some sort of stays though.

It looks like the dress she is wearing could be black and in that case she would be in mourning, though it would be impossible to say who had passed away. But since it's an old black-and-white photo it is really impossible to say for sure and it might just be that she is wearing a dress in some dark colour, and then it could be just some sort of choice directed by taste and the prevailing fashion (preferring certain colours some years and other colours other years is not something new).

The girl looks serious and her hair being pulled back in a straight braid with no loose curls or ringlets makes her look even more so. That she is not smiling is not something to wonder about though, it was the way you were supposed to look like when someone took a photo of you. It was a serious affair and not something you did very often - and most people had bad teeth that made it even more important not to show them off with a thoughtless smile. The setting is very much the typical photo-studio of the time too with the painted back-drop and the kind of natural looking fence that she is leaning against. At this time very few people could pose on photos taken outside, but it was very popular to pretend.

We really do not know anything particular about the social status of Agnes, but we can deduce from her clothing that the family must be at least somewhat good off, it's not clothes meant to work in she is wearing and it even has a lot of lace on it. She is also wearing a necklace, it is impossible to tell what it's made of, more than that it is not some kind of metal by the look of it. Her parents were probably not wealthy, but rich enough to dress their daughter nicely and take her to the photographer.

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