10/03/2008

Photo of the week - 'Mummy'

Date: 1890's
Photographer: Wilbur Portraits
Sitter: 'Mummy'
Provenience: Third Avenue, New York

I am the proud holder of two old albums with photos of friends and family. Many of them are unknown to me, and the albums have no information on names or relationships. But they are still very nice pictures, and this is one of them.

Most of the photos are from Sweden, since they were owned by my paternal grandmother's paternal grandfather, who lived there. But some are of those relatives that went over to America to make a new life there - a common theme in Sweden in the late 1800-hundreds. This is one of these photos.

This is clearly a portrait of someone who wants to show the world that she is successful in her new home. The hair is curled and pinned up in a little bun on top of the head in a fashion that would not have suited when working hard in the old country. The clothes are even more flashy - perhaps even a little bit over the top. The collar is broad with a very bold pattern, a pattern that is echoed on the blouse, a blouse with a high collar and a bow in the neck. This was not how people were dressed back home in poor old Sweden at the time.

Both the hair-do and the broad, very broad you might even say, sleeves makes it very clear that this photo was taken in 1890's - though a closer date can not be determined. Nor can it be determined who the sitter is, more than that she must be one of the Swedish emigrants of the time. But it is one of the few photos in the batch that has some writing on it - on the back it is written 'mamma' (Swedish for 'mummy'). However, it is not known who wrote that.

The slight oval that can be seen around the motif is clearly the traces of the portrait once being set in a photo-frame before being put into this album where it is now.

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