In this video, we’ll examine and admire an 1870s tintype (ferrotype) portrait of two young ladies in what appears to be a regional European style of dress
Welcome to another video in my ongoing series where we study and admire antique photographs. In this case, it’s a tintype (or ferrotype) portrait of two young ladies in what appears to be a regional European style of dress.
An odd-sized plate
This is an odd-size plate that measures 4-inches tall by 2.5-inches wide. That doesn’t fit a typical quarter-plate or sixth-plate size tintype.
As you can see in the video, it’s been mistreated over the decades and has several bends in it.
The front of the iron sheet would have been coated with black lacquer as a base for the light-sensitive emulsion and, in fact, the black lacquer shows through to make up all the blacks in the image. The highlights are created by the developed photograph.
On the back, is the long-ago dried coating of what I assume was the final protective varnish.
Who’s in the photograph?
I don’t know anything about the girls in the photograph or about the photographer. There’s no location or studio information.
Our only information is what’s in the image itself. Let’s take a closer look.
I am assuming based on their fashions that they are immigrants.
The studio applied a light pink tint over the girls’ cheeks. She has a comb in her hair, which has been separated into a style somewhat resembling cornrows.
She has a very distinctive lace bow on her neck with two large lace ribbons covering her chest. I found some old photos with a similar lace scarf online and I think — emphasize the word think here — I think it’s a folk fashion from Poland. If anyone knows otherwise please correct me in the comments.
These old photographs have so much resolution we can identify really interesting details. She’s used a straight pin to help hold her jacket closed.
When was the photograph taken?
That padded armchair with rope tassels looks like the ones that were popular as photo props in the 1870s. That timeframe also fits with the fact that the 1870s was a time of huge immigration from Poland. One article I found in my research said there were 50,000 Poles in the U.S. in the 1870s and by 1882 the population had jumped to 200,000 people.
One sister is wearing a crucifix on a really chunky chain. A YouTube viewer from Europe has confirmed that the young ladies were most likely Polish and that the cross shown below is an Orthodox cross that could have been associated with the Orthodox Church of Poland.
She has a matching hair comb and hairstyle.
Thanks for reading.