Monday, 26 May 2008

A coloured portrait by Lawrence Brothers of Cape Town

Photographers often offered a colouring service, and mostly this colouring would involve the addition of highlights to emphasize certain features, such as the colour of the subject's clothes, their shiny buttons, a wedding ring, their rosy cheeks etc. The advertisements often stated that portraits could be "finished in oils or water colours."

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

The carte de visite portrait of an unidentified woman in Cape Town, South Africa, by the studio of Lawrence Brothers of Caledon Street, has been extensively "finished in oils" - so much so, in fact that little can be seen of the original photograph. It does at least succeed in conveying some of the richness of an African landscape.

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

Michael Stevenson has two images (1 & 2) attributed to the Lawrence Brothers, dated as being from c. 1870, on his web site. However, I believe this portrait was from a little earlier, possibly c. 1861-1865. I'd be keen to hear from anyone who knows anything about this studio, or has examples of their work. Email

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