A Spooky Group Of Sixteen Mid 19thC Framed Ambrotype Portraits


Origin: English
Period: Mid Nineteenth Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: 1850-60
Sizes: Ranging from Ninth Plates (2 x 2.5 inches) to Quarter Plates (3.25 x 4.25 inches)

The mixed sized early glass plate ambrotypes, ranging from ninth plates to quarter plates,  in rectangular gilt metal latched frames with circular inset borders, one attractively shaped, showing gentleman and ladies, mothers, children and babies, widows, grandfathers and a captain. Three have markings verso, the first; ‘Capt. Samson, May 1858’ set with a seal, the second ‘Taken at Gills Photographic Establishment, 92 James St, Devonport’, (which was WH Gill), and the third ‘Uncle? James’.

The condition of each ambrotype varies but the overall state would be considered good to very good. Some have small amounts to their frames and one ambrotype lacks its frame but none are cracked or would be considered to be in poor order.

Often hand colored or tinted, ambrotypes are an image developed on an early glass plate said to be invented by Englishman Frederick Scott Archer (1813-1857) in the mid-1850s. It is believed the word ambrotype derives from the Greek word "ambrotos", or "immortal". Most ambrotype photos found today are unsigned, whereby the photographer's name and whereabouts are unknown and lost forever in time. The ambrotype was introduced in the early 1850's and had a short-lived appearance before the popular carte de visite photograph took hold, and by 1864 the ambrotype had faded in popularity.

Tints can range from red rouge cheeks and lips, gold jewellery, watches, Victorian era chatelaines, clothes, buttons, pendants, and mourning and hair jewelry can be found with small swatches of hand coloring, which gives a wonderful hint of richness to the image. Tinting became very popular and is evident on this group of ambrotypes especially to the image of the child, a sky blue smock shining through.

This splendid group provides masses of mild-macabre decorative effect, with each portrait a beautiful, one of a kind piece of family history; those pictured now laying in graves across the world, their identities still a mystery.