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July 24, 2015

23 Vintage Studio Portraits of Women From the Victorian Era

Early 1860s most photographers' studios offered plain backgrounds, with possibly a column for the sitter to lean on, and a velvet drape on one side. This could be pulled across the back to hide the base of the posing stand – invariably used. Later 1860s more elaborate painted backcloths were introduced, depicting windows, archways, bookcases and other heavy, imposing-looking furniture, and balustrades.

The painted backcloths became more fanciful, with outdoor, parkland scenes, with fences and stiles in the 1870s. Fences as studio props were introduced, against which the sitter posed. Heavily padded, fringed and tasseled furniture features largely in studios, for the sitter to lean against or sit upon. Half-lengths and seated poses are more common.

The painted backcloths become more dramatic, and the props more elaborate and evident in the 1880s. The “outdoor” fiction of the backcloth is now brought into the foreground, with ivycovered tree stumps and rocks for the sitter to sit on, clumps of grass and pebbles on the floor. Specialized sets are provided for seaside and holiday photographs, with sand, rocks, driftwood and sides of boats.

From the 1890s, studio settings now rely more on props and furniture to set the scene, rather than paintedbackdrops. Typical props are oriental screens, mirrors on stands, potted palms, and bamboo furniture of all kinds, the studio aiming to look like a high-class conservatory. The fashion for “close-up” portraits of the head and shoulders only, possible with the improved lenses of the 1890s, meant that the background was becoming less important. “Vignette” photographs are typical of the 1890s, in which the head forms an oval which fades into a pale blank background.

As a general rule, the closer the camera is to the sitter, the later in date the photograph is.
























(via Flashbak)

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