Picture of the week

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11 March 2019

Victorian portraits

It can be very difficult to date Victorian portrait photographs. Rarely is the date they were taken added on the back of the print, and finding a subject's name is even more unlikely. But there are always clues, which can help narrow down the range of dates between which photographs were taken. This is true of this pair of portraits from the studio of the prolific late 18th-century Jersey photographer Thomas Price. Although he took thousands of commissioned portraits, very little is known about him.

He was in business at 2 and 4 Peter Street from 1869, so the back of the portrait on the left might suggest that it was taken in 1889, or soon after. There is further confirmation for this when it is known that from 1891 his son, also joined him in the business, as T Price and Son.

But the 20th anniversary is misleading, because Thomas Price, born at St Pancras in 1840, was first in business in 1862 in London, before moving to Jersey with his wife Louisa and setting up his portraiture business in Peter Street seven years later. Their son, Thomas, was born the following year, and the couple went on to have three daughters, Louisa, Rosa and Mary Emma in the 1870s.

The 20th anniversary commemorated on the back of his photographs refers to the original business in London, and the design shown here is known to have been in use only from 1882 to 1883, before some very minor changes were introduced.

So, the first portrait on the left can be accurately dated to those two years.

The horizontal design of the back of photographs taken once Thomas Jnr had joined his father's business was introduced in 1893. By 1896 the design had reverted to a vertical format, so the second portrait can be placed within that three-year timeframe.

If only we knew the names of these ladies!

Thomas Price Jnr continued in business until 1920, moving to a more prominent position in Queen Street in later years.

  • Click on any of these images to see a larger version!


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