Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Victorian "Photoshop": Portrait Manipulation

Almost as soon as photography was perfected for use by the general public, artists and others began to manipulate the images. Beginning with daguerrotypes, photographers used double exposures to create humorous effects.  Photographers combined images from different negatives to create novelty photos.  The headless ones were extremely popular.  Photographers and retouching specialists would  scrape their film with knives, draw or paint on top of it.

"Spirit" photography used multiple exposures to depict the subject with ghostly presences in the same image.


 "Spirit" photograph, by John K. Hallowell, Chicago, Illinois. Supposedly taken during a seance, actually a double exposure or composite of superimposed cutouts, showing a woman with head-and-shoulders portraits of men and women around her head.   Image: Library of Congress

Portrait Photography

Oh, those lovely, creamy smooth complexions of the Victorian era.   But were they really?   Today, in order to give our own selfies a peaches and cream glow, we often use an application in our cell phones, such as a "soften face" feature.

In the 1800s, "the dominant photographic print at this time was called the albumen silver print, and was produced by coating paper with a mixture of egg whites and salt, and dipping it into silver nitrate. The paper was then placed in contact with the negative and exposed to light. Before printing their photographs, photographers would use pencils to manually scratch touch-ups onto the negatives themselves. They developed a variety of scratch techniques either to shade or highlight their images—for example, they’d use a fine-pointed pencil to add highlights, or a blunt pencil and “cross-hatching” technique to brighten up parts of the face". Smithsonian.   The actual negatives  looked pretty strange. People’s faces appeared scratched, cracked, or pockmarked, depending on the photographer’s technique. But the scratches didn’t appear in the final print. Instead, the small scratches showed up as a cheek-bone defining shadow or a healthy glow—creating with a pencil some of the same effects today’s photo editors are achieving digitally.


Below, the cabinet card on the left shows a nice, glowing face.  On the right, modern scanning and enlarging shows the small, white dots and lines used to highlight and smooth.

Photographer Tony Richards owns several old plates that were used to make albumen prints in the mid-to-late 1800s.  Richards found that the plates have  “pencil marks” on the emulsion side — the retouchers permanently scratched their edits into the original glass plates. The woman above and below are two examples showing the white pencil lines and dots, which may fill in lines, cover spots, or add highlights.  Photographer Link

 The Wasp Waist

What about photos of those poor women who supposedly laced themselves so tightly they broke ribs, redistributed their internal organs or fainted dead away?  So many of these photos used manipulation, such as the infamous painted triangles. Look closely at the below portraits.  You can see the poorly executed waist-whittling techniques used by the photographer.  These are all painted in at the waist.  Why, even Queen Maud wasn't averse to a little touch up here!

Right, a close up of her painted in waist.
Left, Queen Maud and King Haakon VII of Norway when they were still Prince Carl of Denmark and Princess Maud of Wales.  1890s.

Yes, a tiny waist was desirable, but only a small number of women did extreme corseting.  The Empress Elizabeth of Austria (tall at 5'8" and an average of 110 pounds) was obsessed with dieting, exercise and tight-lacing. From 1862 until her death in 1898, her clothing measured 18 1/2 – 19 1/2 inches around the waist, which prompted the Prince of Hesse to describe her as “almost inhumanly slender”.

 The average Victorian corseted waist measurements varied between 23 to 31 inches. Larger corsets of 32-36 inches and above were also available. 

A small waist is also a visual illusion.  Women would cinch their waists in while they padded their hips and the side lines of the bust to make themselves look as much like an hourglass as possible.

The Retouching Desk

"The central frame held a piece of glass onto which the negative was placed. Attached to the base, an adjustable mirror or piece of white cardstock reflected light up through the negative. An overhanging piece of wood—sometimes accompanied by built-in side curtains or a piece of fabric thrown over the whole contraption—prevented light from shining on the negative from above. The retoucher was told to set up the retouching desk in front of a north-facing window, as light from the north “is the least variable,” according to one 1898 retouching guide. Most retouching took place on the film side of a negative-the one covered with the photographic emulsion.

Image credits: The book of photography; practical, theoretical and applied, via // Public Domain

To lighten small sections of the negative, the retoucher would use a sharp blade to shave away the dark film, little by little, thus subduing the highlight in the final print."
Jocelyn Sears for Mental Floss

In conclusion, an 1881 book titled  "The Art and Practice of Silver Painting" give us great advice that is useful today about going overboard on retouching:
“An old man without wrinkles is an unnatural and ghastly object—the ‘marble brow’ of the poet should be left to literature.”    "It is very wrong to touch out all the character in the face of your otherwise fine ‘old sea-captain.’”

Submitted by Shenandoah Rose

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Punch Magazine Fashion Cartoons

Punch magazine was published between 1841 and 2002.  One of the best features of Punch was the cartoons, full of great satire from 100-150 years ago, not only about Fashion, but on Domestic & Foreign Affairs, Culture, Art, Society, and Science & Technology.  I'd like to share some of my fashion favorites.

The Hourglass Lady.   A cartoon by Linley Sambourne drawn in 1877, shows a woman with the new form fitting, hourglass silhouette.  The photo on the right is Author Edith Wharton, circa 1877.

Veto.   "Shall we - a - sit down?" "I'd like to; but my dressmaker says I musn't!"    Drawn by George DuMauier in the late 1870s.  This lovely ruffled and pleated train was painted by James Tissot of the same era.       


"The Chatelaine: A Really Useful Present" Cartoon from Punch, 1849 By John Leech

Copy reads "Oh, look! Ma' dear;  see what a love of a chatelaine Edward has given me."   A chatelaine is a decorative belt hook or clasp worn at the waist with a series of chains suspended from it. Each chain is mounted with useful household appendages such as scissors, thimbles, watches, keys, vinaigrette, and household seals.

The "Extinction" of Species, or "the fashion plate lady without mercy and the egrets."   At the turn of the 20th century, thousands of birds were being killed in order to provide feathers to decorate women's hats. The fashion craze, which began in the 1870s, became so widespread that by 1886 birds were being killed for the millinery trade at a rate of five million a year; many species faced extinction as a result.  The most popular plumes came from various species of egret, known as "little snowies" for their snowy-white feathers; even more prized were the "nuptial plumes", grown during the mating season and displayed by birds during courtship. On March 14, 1903, President Roosevelt established Pelican Island as the first national wildlife refuge in the United States to protect egrets and other birds from extinction by plume hunters.    Source         


A satirical cartoon showing a woman/snail with her shell as a bustle, by artist Linley Sambourne.  I love how the others on the beach stop to stare at this fashionable creature.
Right is the painting  "On the Shores of Bognor Regis" by A. M. Rossi, 1887.

During the 19th century, there was no such thing as a holiday from fashion.  Seaside resorts in England—whether in Brighton, Bournemouth, or Burnham-on-Sea—were as much a place to flaunt one’s style as London itself during the season.

Punch did a series of cartoons about women's desires to wear designs based on Nature.  Here are a few:

 One of the most satirized items of women's apparel was the crinoline, or cage hoop.  The fashion was so popular that Punch nicknamed the crinoline craze 'Crinolinemania'.

Not only were they drawn in farce, they also made stereoscopic cards showing women dressing with large, exaggerated cage hoops. BELOW: In 1860, The London Stereoscopic Company produced the Comic Series ‘scene from a ladies dressing room, preparing for the crinoline’.  Source

Stereoscopic cards for a viewer. (Think of it as a Victorian ViewMaster!)

Submitted by:  Shenandoah Rose

Monday, March 5, 2018

Victorian Women’s Hygiene: A Delicate Subject

Have you ever wondered about the personal hygiene practices of women living during the Victorian Era or before?  We live in a time where we are bombarded with magazine ads, TV commercials, billboard signs and peer influence regarding the latest and best products and current trends to use to practice our daily and monthly hygiene rituals.    

Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901) was a period of intensive industrialization, urbanization, and social change. This time period marked massive changes and attitudes towards class and hygiene, where ‘cleanliness’ was equated with respectability and ‘smell’ was an indicator of health, class and social order. When Queen Victoria was crowned, fashion and art were generally only for the upper-classes. As her reign wore on, the middle-classes grew and copied the gentry. By the late 1800s, even the working poor were doing their best to emulate the elite.  

Bathing:  Personal hygiene in the Victorian period, and indeed in nearly every era preceding it, was not conducted with the same rigor as today.  During the first decades of Victoria's reign, baths were virtually unknown in the poorer districts and uncommon elsewhere.  Those who could afford a bathtub would have bathed a few times each month, while the poor were likely to bathe once a year. Victorian men and women would wash arms, hands and faces regularly but the rest of the person was pretty much left to itself.  This may seem remarkably smelly, but if everyone else smells the same then one assumes the odor becomes unremarkable.  
The Industrial Revolution was a major influence on the English economy, trade, population, advances in medicine and the importance of personal hygiene, recommending that more frequent bathing would help reduce or eliminate some of the major health issues of the time.  Bath houses became popular, but women didn't disrobe to bathe, rather they kept on their underpinnings while they would soak with other women in a public bath.  Water was heated over open fires, causing a lot of the bathhouses to burn down.  The wealthy had portable tubs that were brought to their bedrooms and placed in front of the hearth.  Victorian women used pumice stones to clean, adding flowers and citrus or perfume to their bath water.  

Toilet: Dealing with human waste has always been part of being alive. Humans typically practiced open defecation or employed latrines. “Outhouse”, “water closet”, “privy”, “necessary house”, “the closet” are just a few terms that have been used to refer to where a person would go to “taking care of business”.  

 If you were a Victorian woman, you would have eaten, drank, and taken physical exercise at about the same time each day. So women would of course try to time their privy use in the morning and night, when they were disrobed. But their main trick: underwear, or what most people think of “bloomers”, had no crotches. They were leg coverings that were left split, wide and droopy, usually from front to back. This allowed a woman to use a chamber pot, outhouse, or early toilet by just flipping her skirts (which she needed both hands to do, they were so long and heavy), and squatting.   

Wiping?   The wealthy would have included wiping themselves with wool, lace, or hemp. The poor simply used their hands or cleaned themselves as best they could with rags, wood shavings, leaves, grass, hay, stone, sand, moss, water, snow, maize, husks, seashells and fruit skins – essentially, whatever was handy and available given the country, weather conditions, or social customs.  Man has tried various ways to dispose of human waste by using chamber pots, which were cleaned manually by the servants or slaves, with toilets protruding out of the top floor of a house or castle, and dispose of wastes in the river below or into the streets or drains in urban areas.

Time of the Month: Before the 20th century, women ate less, were pregnant more often, and died much earlier in life, so menstruation was a somewhat rarer occurrence and simply not a priority. Abstinence, coitus interruptus, or a “condom” made out of chemically treated linen or animal tissue (intestine or bladder) were used until rubber condoms gained popularity in the mid-19th century. Women had few options when Mother Nature called once a month. Some would use rags (hence the saying “on the rag”) or pieces of cloth sewn into their clothing that would be reused several times. Some women simply wore black and let gravity do its thing.  A form of what we know as tampons could be used. It consisted of a stick with lint wrapped around it to collect the blood. There were “sanitary belts” like the one in the picture that were metal, where fabric was sewn into the crotch area. Because of the odor, most women stayed away from others during their menses.  Doctors during this time believed that the regularity of a woman’s period was related to her mental health – her body controlled her mind and it was the responsibility of the oldest man in the house to make sure that her menses flowed on a regular basis.
Dental Hygiene For the lower classes, dental hygiene was little more than a toothpick and wiping down your gums with a cloth. Women generally had worse dental hygiene than men due to vitamin loss from pregnancy.   

Toothpaste had been invented in the early 1700’s by an Italian company, Marvis, but it wasn’t an “essential”. 
By the early 1800s, a variety of toothbrush and toothpowder manufacturers were competing with each other for a rapidly growing number of clientele in a thriving toothpowder trade. Tooth powder recipes proliferated, and toothbrushes began to be sold in great quantities. 

 The Victorian Era seems to be a glamorous period in time because of the style of clothes, the advances taking place during the Industrial Revolution, the romance novels written for that era, along with the romanticism that Hollywood has depicted in movies representing the time, have created a picture of elegance and refinery. But life was not glamorous or easy for a female before modern times. Body odor, homes and cities smelling of human waste, water to collect and heat for bathing or laundry, while dealing with their monthly menses was a real chore! Women of today have truly been blessed with the availability of hot water, indoor plumbing, and personal hygiene products that make it so much easier to take care of personal hygiene and bathroom business. 

Submitted by: Irish Rose