Monday, January 19, 2009

The Old Grandmothers:

These two photographs, in elaborate frames shaped like vine and flower entwined tree limbs, were hanging in the hallway of The Old House. When I asked my dad who they were he said, "The old grandmothers", but he didn't know which ones. He thought that one was grandmother Love, that would be Sabra Hughes Love, born 1839, died 1921. That leaves at least two possibilities for the other - Sarah Hale, born 1796, died 1891, or Mary Hines, David Dutton's wife, born 1778, died 1859.

The first image is a photo of another photo - if it is Mary Hines, then it probably was from a tintype. The paper has visible particles of silver nitrate on it, and the image has been enhanced, or altered, with black charcoal, on the bonnet straps, eyes, blouse, and the medallion. The artist indicates the medallion had a face, but not in enough detail to say what sort of. I'm guessing that the artist was my grandmother, Sarah Belle. She had the skill, the nerve, and the fine charcoal pencils, to do it. It would have been a one shot affair - she could have ruined the only existing image of one of her grandmothers, or perhaps worse, the only one of her husbands.

If it was made from a tintype of Mary Hines, it would have been barely possible in 1850, nine years before her death. Photography arrived in the U.S. in 1834, and although it spread quickly - it still seems a bit of a long shot that this image is of Mary. But I think it is - because my grandmother, if she is the one who enhanced and framed these two (the frame is very much in her taste...Victorian Romantic.) would have done a balanced pair, with kin from both sides.

The second photo is likely Sabra Love.


Cathy said...

Such beautiful, chiseled faces. They both look so strong and tough.

Sarah Belle sounds so much like her present-day namesake!

Cathy said...

The face on the medallion looks like a small child's.

Dan Dutton said...

I wonder if it's a cameo. That part of the image is almost entirely done in charcoal, so it's impossible to see what exactly was there to begin with.