Sunday, 11 May 2008

Hand-coloured portrait by W.W. Winter of Derby

Hand-colouring of photographic portraits was a practice which used from the earliest daguerreotypes in the 1840s, continued after the introduction of ambrotypes in the 1850s, and appears to have reached its heydey with the cartes de visite of the 1860s. Thereafter the number of coloured portraits, as a proportion of total photos produced, seems to have declined through the 1870s and 1880s, although many studios still offered the service, and there were periodic brief resurgences of popularity.

In the 1900s, after the introduction of the postcard format, and the popularisation of coloured "real photographic postcards" - as opposed to printed postcards - of pretty young women and angelic children, there was a flurry of popularity of colourised portraits, which was repeated in a variety of formats during the inter-war period. I hope to feature a number of types of these from throughout the period described on Photo-Sleuth in due course.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

It was probably during one of these resurgences that the cabinet card portrait of the elderly gentleman shown above was produced by W.W. Winter. The card format is of a style (Type XX) used by this studio from 1886 to 1888, and so can be fairly accurately dated to that period. I have seen only one other hand-coloured portrait by this studio, and that was produced in the early 1890s (Type XXIII). Studios would employ artists, often young women, specifically to hand colour the portraits after they had been printed. Sometimes a customer would order both coloured and uncoloured versions.

Image © & collection of Brett Payne

The reverse of this cabinet card shows a number of medals awarded to W.W. Winter for photographs submitted to competitions, which he used to good effect in emphasizing his expertise. His first cartes de visite featuring medals appeared c. 1884 (two), and he continued with the medal count over the next two decades until c. 1905, when the tally reached 65. His was a successful studio, with many customers, and a high turnover of card mount stocks meant that he could refresh his card designs frequently. As a result it has been possible to identify well over thirty distinct card type designs over a forty year period between 1865 and 1905.

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