When it comes to antiquing, photographs are highly collectible. There are many different categories; sporting, traveling, landscapes, animals, animals with children…the possibilities are virtually endless. With any type of collecting, the more specialized your collection is, the better.
Here is a nice example of a hand colored portrait. This was discovered in a Millerton, NY farmhouse which had been occupied by one family for over a century. This attractive, composed looking young woman is most likely one of the family. She probably was photographed shortly after the Civil War–1865 to 1880 would be my educated guess borne out by her hair style (center part with hair pulled back over ears), clothing (voluminous layers pinned at neck), and jewelry (bar pin). The wooden frame ornately decorated with applied gesso and painted gold is also typical of this time period. In addition, both black and white and sepia photographs were frequently hand colored with oil paints, pastels or crayons, and watercolors during the last quarter of the 19th Century, before the technology for widespread color photography was developed.
Other clues to look for when placing an antique photo in context could be furnishings, advertising signs or brand names visible, types of transportation in the picture (ie: horse and buggy, automobile, steam engine…).
This large portrait with its frame measures 25″ x 29 1/2″ and retails for $125. Factors which can influence the price of an antique are condition, authenticity, provenance, current tastes and overall attractiveness. The period frame holding our portrait is in very good condition. Gesso decoration is fragile and frequently these old frames are in “shabby chic” condition with pieces missing and chips in the wood. The surface of the photo does have foxing and could be better preserved by putting an acid free paper backing on it instead of the original board. In this case we have a circumstantial provenance, excellent authenticity, and fair condition. Public taste is not really very strong on Victoriana at the moment, but this is a very attractive and well colored portrait of a beautiful woman. Its flaws balanced with its overall quality make it an affordable representation of local history.
Visit the Millerton Antiques Center at 25 Main Street, Millerton NY or on their website at millertonantiquescenter.com