Friday, October 07, 2011

Identifying People in Old Photos

In an age before television, it wasn't uncommon for the high and mighty of the land to have their portrait taken by a photographer and for that image to be sold throughout the country at stationers and booksellers. So they occasionally turn up in family albums. Many are easy enough to spot: Dickens was a favourite, the Queen of course and members of her family, the occasional Bishop or preacher if the family was particularly devout, like these two above of Mr and Mrs Gladstone that came from a large Victorian family photo album I bought recently.

But then there are others who one suspects are 'personalities' but who can be a little more difficult to pin down. So, a plea for help I suppose: the two photos below are both by Bassano, a very well known photographer of celebrity at the end of the nineteenth century, based in London, and from the Bond Street address on the back of these cabinet cards we know they are post 1876. The National Portrait Gallery has nearly 41000 photographs by the Bassano company and trawling through them for a match isn't really praticable. Of course, Bassano photographed the humble as well as the famous and the name alone is not enough to suspect that these two are personages. However, both these cabinet cards also have a retailers sticker on them as well and the retailer was local to the family from whose album these come. This is enough for me to believe that these are photos of famous people but I don't know who... any thoughts my faithful friends and readers...?


Jimmy said...

The first looks like Gladstone?

Mike said...

The first might be some sort of sports star, though the were usually photographed in their kit. The huge coat also suggests the early (would have to be very early in this case!) days of motoring.
The second appears to have a music box? Possibly a musician who had had her work 'recorded' in this form? It would have been an interesting and novel thing to do in the days before reliable, standardised records.

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