Portrait of a Young Baltimore Matron

This young woman’s portrait, taken by the Julius Hebbel Studio in the late 19th century, is one of my favorites. Some may think the choice of a black mount and the jet beading on her dress indicate that the photo was a mourning memento.

The photographer has chosen to “vignette” his subject. Vignetting was a printing technique for shading the image gradually into the background. The elaborate embroidery and beading on her dress suggests this woman is from a prosperous family.

The warm ivory tone of the photograph is typical of albumen prints. An extract from hens’ eggs was used in the preparation of the paper.  Older albumen prints exhibit a characteristic crackled surface.