Malachi's Promise "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers...." Malachi 4:6

Saturday, February 12, 2011

One of Emma's Studio Portraits

This is my maternal grandmother, Emma Virginia Bickerstaff. As far as I can tell, she had more studio portraits made than any other family member, on either side of my family, and they are wonderful portraits.

This one is presented three ways: as shown at left; as at left but with a large mat around it; and as a long oval with most of the background cut out. I like the oval best but appreciate seeing more of the chair and background in this one.

I think the chair is interesting with its spindles, ornate carving, and the open mouth of an animal on the arm. I wonder about the pillow behind her legs. Does it serve some particular purpose or is it an accidental touch? I can't tell what she's holding in her left but I think they may be flowers.

I don't know when this photo was taken. She was born in July, 1892. Could she be 8 or 10 in this photo? Could this have been a birthday portrait?

If you enlarge the photo (by clicking on it, then clicking again), you'll see that it's just slightly blurry - not noticed by the naked eye in the smaller versions but definitely obvious when enlarged digitally. The photographer was F. D. Blackburn of Steubenville, Ohio.

I invite you to visit Sepia Saturday and view others' old photographs and thoughts about them.

22 comments:

  1. That pillow is interesting. Perhaps its there to hide one of those neck stands that they used. I can't remember what they're called, but it was placed behind the person to keep them still during the exposure. Or maybe the photographer is trying to hide a huge tear in his backdrop. Either way, she looks lovely.

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  2. Another wonderful example of the power of the click. We must be the first generation to be able to share such images and enable the view to zoom in and appreciate the detail. And it never was the devil that was in the detail, always it was the delight that was there.

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  3. Such a charming portrait! I enjoyed the enlarged views too! This image is incredibly sharper than any photographs from the 1970's in my family photo albums.

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  4. A beautiful portrait, the chair is delightful too, I agree that the cushion may be covering the feet of one of those stands to help the person keep still.

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  5. Lovely! Your remark about Steubenville brought thoughts of the beautiful pottery and glassware produced there in the city known once as "little Chicago"

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  6. superb photo. Not many had such portraits taken back then so this is a fortunate piece. I was particularly interested in the chair too as I have several antique pieces from the Irwin family that are quite ornate, from the 1800's,,I cherish them but dusting is a pain! I had not heard of neckstands before commented here; that would have helped keeping folks straight and still and would explain many poses done that way. I learn something every Sepia Sat.

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  7. One of my greatest joys is seeing and learning about my grandmother's life way before even my parents were born! We come from such amazing people!

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  8. The chair is quite ornate but even with the double click I can't make ot the pattern in the back rest. However the chair took my attention away from Emma and I didn't see the cushion.

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  9. I tried to see what she was holding but couldn't really tell. There was a photo of my grandmother taken about this same age. she was born in 1888. my sister lost it during a move. i love to see how they looked back when they were children and know what lay ahead for them.

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  10. Upon enlarging it, I could clearly see the layering in the bottom hem of the dress. Beautiful!

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  11. What a beautiful photo. The pillow is interesting. I'm guessing it as used for the occasional subject who wanted to be photographed sitting in the chair. Maybe...maybe not.

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  12. Superb photo...

    I always love your Sepia Saturday posts.

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  13. The over-elaborate chair is interesting, but almost takes away from Emma's picture. My mum rescued an intricately carved chair (found stored in a farm shed in the 70's, with active woodworm) with open-mouthed dragons or lions at the end of the armrests. She was told it was a Church chair and the animals were fertility symbols, in the hope of abundant harvests. I too think Emma has a small bunch of flowers in her hand - sorry not to be more helpful :-) Jo

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  14. Alan, I have never before heard the idiom "the devil was in the detail." I like your version, "the delight was in the detail," much better. Yes, it must have been a time-consuming thing for photographers to enlarge the images, whereas and for us it's just seconds.

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  15. Tattered and Lost, do you think that the neck-holder (or whatever it's called) is in use in this photo? I remember hearing (or reading, maybe) that they used some kind of rod to keep the children from moving but don't know details. I wonder why they wouldn't have chosen a black pillow so it would disappear.

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  16. Dorene, this is clearer than most of the photos in any of the albums in our family. My mom's album is full of blurred photographs. It's very sad because if not blurred, they would be so great. Thanks for visiting.

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  17. MuseSwings, I did not know that Steubenville was called "Little Chicago." I have several ancestors who worked in the potteries. I remember, when traveling there years ago, stopping at pottery outlets and enjoying the wares that were sold. They were imperfects or seconds but to my child's eyes, they looked perfect.

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  18. Lisa B., Pat, Bob, and Jo -- you all commented about the chair. I think it's interesting that they would use such an ornate chair for a young girl. It does seem to compete for attention.

    I would have hated to have to dust that chair or one like it. (I still would!)

    Bob, I can't really make out the pattern, either -- maybe they are flowers?

    Jo, interesting bit about a similar chair being a church chair with fertility symbols. I wish I could make out exactly what kind of beast is carved on the arm rest.

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  19. Thank you all for visiting.

    Dee, I'm glad you enjoy my Sepia Saturday posts. I enjoy them (because we can write to our heart's content about the photos) better than Wordless Wednesdays.

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  20. Great photo, maybe the chair was used to make her stand in one place?...karen

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  21. I think it is a wonderful studio portrait. I like that chair and background.

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  22. Dorene made me laugh about her comments on family pictures in the 1970s. i say we bring back the rod to make sure all pictures from now on are close to perfect!!! with digital cameras, you can still get fuzzy pictures seeing the full motion, and i find those so hilarious. i kept a few of those, mostly of my cats. but a friend of mine caught me like that last year and i love it. this photo is remarquable, for the girl who i estimate would be 10, and the chair as i love furniture that command some attention. it was a studio shoot after all. nice prop!! speaking of props, could it be that she's holding a bouquet of fabric flowers? i remember seeing something at my grandma's, looked silkish, with pearls and other stuff embroided into the bouquet.
    anyway... great picture!! glad you shared it with us now.
    :)~
    HUGZ

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