Shell necklaces

Alfred Winter maintained a studio in Bathurst St. Hobart between 1869 – 1891, but he also operated studios at 19 Elizabeth St. around 1874 -1875; another at 23 Elizabeth St. between 1878 – 1880; and at 91A Elizabeth St. from 1880 – 1881.

This carte-de-visite, of standard size (10cm x 6 cm approx) is mounted in Winter’s usual style within a plain rectangle.

Verso of both cartes, dating from Winter’s Vice-Regal appointment ca. 1876.

The verso bears his Elizabeth St. studio address, but as the street number is not legible, the carte could date from anytime between 1875 and 1881.

Given the presence of the official insignia of the Tasmanian colonial government – the rampant lion and unicorn – below the words “BY APPOINTMENT”, this carte was probably taken in the late 1870s, a time when Winter’s official commissions included photographing social events at Government House (see his tableaux of the Masques).

The portrait is of an unknown woman in her twenties, possibly with an Eastern European background, if details of her outfit can indicate origins.

Her hat looks Russian, and her dress looks like a two-toned smock tied at the back of the neck. She is not dressed like her mid-Victorian contemporaries of Anglo-Irish origins. And while she seems to be wearing a necklace made of small shells, she does not look to have Aboriginal Tasmanian origins.

Louisa Anne Meredith also wore sea shell necklaces and bracelets, so these adornments were at the very least a fashion statement, and might have signified something more.

The boy looks like the son or younger brother of the woman in a similar hat and shell necklace, indicating that these two portraits were taken in the same session. He too wears a shell necklace – a smaller child’s version of the woman’s. What was its significance? His heavily braided jacket, and unusual collar are distinctly Eastern European.

© The Private Collection of John & Robyn McCullagh 2006 – 2007 ARR.

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