Archive for the 19thC Category

Tintype Witches (almost), 1875

Posted in 19thC, Photograph, SFW on 25 June 2011 by redwitch1

When is a sexy witch, not a sexy witch? Or rather, when does an image seem to depict a sexy witch, but on closer examination not depict either a witch or a sexy witch? I dabbled with this question during the Halloween Countdown in 2009, with a series of posts on “stuff I leave out.” These posts covered images of witches who were too young for inclusion (no.1), women with misleadingly broad-brimmed hats (no.2 and no.4) and women who are described as witches, but who are only described thus figuratively (usually, because they are either very naughty, or because they are so sexy that their allure acts like magic; no.3).

Sadly, I could do many more posts showing items I bought on spec but had to reject when I got a chance to get a closer look at them. I could also do quite a few posts showing items I bought knowing that the image wouldn’t qualify for this blog. Indeed, I have been buying more of these marginal items recently, precisely because they help define the margins (especially between clown/witch). But this one I bought because the image is just so unbelievably awesome and because it is so wacky that it might actually have been intended to allude to witches.

As you can see, here we have four young women (Sexy? Tick), the fourth one is holding a broom (Witch paraphernalia? Another tick), the first one has a misleadingly-broad-brimmed hat, with a convenient shadow suggesting a pointed crown (Witch’s hat? Almost a tick), and two middle one are cradling a taxidermied raptor—an eagle perhaps—(Gothic paraphernalia? Another tick).

Since the first woman holds a dustpan and brush it seems likely that the fourth woman is holding a broom for cleaning purposes. But, if so, WTF is going on with the dead bird?! It is all very confusing. (To say nothing of the fact that if these girls could step out of this tintype would look perfectly at home at a goth bar. In fact they would knock the torn fishnets off some of the competition.)

After looking at the image for a while I realised I really didn’t care that it was not clear, or even unlikely, that this image depicted four witches: I wanted the photo so that these four gothic beauties could come to Melbourne and live with me. For ever. And even though it is not clear, or even unlikely, that this image depicts four witches, I thought some of you might like to see it too.

Four Witches, ca. 1890

Posted in 19thC, Photograph, SFW on 6 February 2010 by redwitch1

These images are taken from a half-plate, glass photo negative of ca. 1890. The seller informed me that this is one of three negatives he bought six years ago featuring the same four young women dressed as witches in the woods.

The first photo in this series he described as featuring thirteen women: four are dressed as witches—as here—and these are “sitting on the ground Indian-style with there heads on their hand”; the other nine women are standing behind the witches dressed very nicely with large hats. The woman in the middle is holding a very large and ornate parasol. Curiously, two of the women are holding teddy bears! The second photo in the series is similar to the one here, but two of the witches are sitting on the ground, one is stirring the pot and the other peeking around from behind a tree.

These descriptions, and the plate I have here, suggest a play of some description put on by a private school group. No doubt the woman in the middle holding a very large and ornate parasol is the teacher from the ladies school, the other twelve women being students. The nature of the play, the location of the school etc are all likely to remain a mystery, but I have other photos like this (see here for an indoor example I posted last year).

Unfortunately, the negative is over-exposed, the faces of the standing witches being almost entirely burnt out by the bright light behind them. The witch seated next to the cauldron is captured perfectly as is the cauldron itself, the torsos of the three standing witches and the tree-trunks in the foreground.

I have done what I can in photoshop with scans from this negative but this is one of those examples where a skilled developer can probably get better results in a darkroom than I can get on a computer. The print I have which came with this plate is excellent, but one day I will get a larger and better one. Meanwhile, these scans will have to do.

As you can see, I have given the whole plate, close-ups of the four witches, the cauldron, the face of the seated witch, and details of the fake snake wound into the corset-strings of one of the standing witches, and one set of shoes that feature fake buckles (no doubt, to make them look “ye olde”—and therefore witchy).

(For comparison, check out the snake wrapped around the hat here and the Ardern Holt costumes described here: is this not a “low level bodice” with “lizards in black velvet”?)

And can I say, I just love the high-neck shirts. Perhaps I watched Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975) too often as a child. (Sara wasn’t the only one writing poetry “all about Miranda”—or all about Sara for that matter!)

Belated Burns Night Post, 1868

Posted in 19thC, Painting, Photograph, Tam O'Shanter on 30 January 2010 by redwitch1
[Detail of Nannie, Plate 6]

Once again I forgot to prepare a Burns Night Post. Unbelievable! I really need to prepare a perpetual sexy-witchy calendar, which includes Burns Night, Easter Witches, Halloween, La Befana the Christmas Witch etc.

What is Burn’s Night? As Wikipedia explains

A Burns supper is a celebration of the life and poetry of the poet Robert Burns, author of many Scots poems. The suppers are normally held on or near the poet’s birthday, 25 January, sometimes also known as Robert Burns Day or Burns Night (Burns Nicht), although they may in principle be held at any time of the year.

I like that last bit: “in principle” I can declare this to be my Burn’s Night. So, what have I got for you on my Burn’s Night? A very strange and interesting book which I am going to cover at length (for reasons I explain below): Tam O’ Shanter. By Robert Burns. With illustrations by E. H. Miller. Photographed by Gardner. [motto] (New York: W. J. Widdleton, Publisher, 1868).

[Plate 1: Portrait of Robert Burns]

The book contains twenty leaves, including eight leaves of plates: basically, a title-leaf, a List of Illustrations, an eight-page Introduction and a leaf of text facing each of the eight plates. The original (publisher’s) cloth binding is an ornate gilt confection of gold on green, designed by John Feely (1819–78) according to D. T. Pendleton Fine & Antiquarian Books (who have a nice copy for sale for only USD175 here).

[Plate 2: Whare sits our sulky sullen dame]

As the title-page to this book explains, the illustrations are original mounted albumen photos by Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner glued down onto otherwise blank pages. Given the age of the photos (1868), and the fame of the photographer (Wikipedia entry here), the book is important enough to appear in the American History of Photography microfilm series (Reel 25, no. 265) held by the Smithsonian in the American Art Portrait Gallery.

[Plate 4: Nae man can tether time or tide]

According to D. Mark Katz, Witness To An Era: The Life and Photographs of Alexander Gardner (1999), 261:

Tam o’ Shanter

The year 1868 marked the 110th anniversary of the publication of ‘Tam o’ Shanter,’ by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, presenting Gardner with another publishing project. He conceived the idea of republishing the landmark poem with illustrations by Washington artist E. Hutchinson Miller. Gardner photographically reproduces seven of Miller’s illustrations for a leather-bound limited edition that was published in New York by W. J. Widdleton. No more than ten copies of the book are known to exist today.

[Plate 5: Tam skelpit on thro’ dub and mire]

Well, as I said above, it was issued in cloth too, and I suspect that there are a few more than ten copies. Still, reading this I almost wish I had kept mine … (dramatic pause). Yes, I kept my copy only long enough to scan it at 1200dpi. The reason I gave it to a friendly book-binder was because the copy I bought was missing one plate (Plate 3: “The landlady and Tam grew gracious”) and had obviously lived for much of its life inside a petrol tin, or on a pile of kerosene-soaked rags, or some such. It stank so bad that I gaged when I opened the envelope it arrived in. I only removed it from that envelope long enough to scan it and then I wiped down the scanner and gave the envelope to a binder in the hope that he could wash and resize the paper (sizing as in paper treatment, not A4 vs Foolscap etc; see here) and then re-bind the book. I am not sure whether he has done this yet, but I hope so.

[Plate 6: But Maggie stood right sair astonish’d]

As for the artist, E. Hutchinson Miller (1831-1921), he was born in Shepherdstown, WV. According to the Jefferson County Historical Landmarks Commission (here), Miller’s watercolor, entitled “Moonrise and Twilight,” is apparently in the Corcoran Art Gallery in Washington, DC. There is an article on Miller (Jessie Trotter, “E. Hutchinson Miller, The Artist.” Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society 5 (1939): 38-40), and a few brief biographical sketches in Millard Kessler Bushong, The History of Jefferson County, West Virginia 1719-1940 (2008) and A. D. Kenamond Prominent Men of Shepherdstown During its First 200 Years (1963). Not having any of these at hand, I cannot tell you any more than this.

[Plate 7: As Tammie glowr’d, amaz’d and curious]

Looking at Miller’s paintings, our heroine is not the sexiest Nannie we have seen, in fact she looks a little ferocious in this dancing scene (and even more so in the chase), but she is in the right state of déshabillé, is facing the viewer for a change, and Old Nick is brilliant! (See below.)

[Plate 8: Ae spring brought off her master hale]

Nannie also has a lot more company in this version than in the last two I compared a few weeks back (here), so the jigs and reels do look more authentic.

Unfortunately, the 1868 photographs of Miller’s paintings are a lot less pleasing to the eye than either S. Smith’s engraving of J. M. Wright’s artwork (1842) or Lumb Stocks’ engraving of John Faed’s artwork (1855). (About a century later colour photographs started replacing the artwork on pulps and paperbacks, with the same disappointing results.) Still, since the book is rare, important and practically nothing about it appears online, I thought it worth covering in detail. I hope you agree.

[Detail of Plate 7: Old Nick]
[Detail of Plate 7: Nannie’s company]
[Detail of Plate 7: Nannie]

Nannie’s Dance, 1842

Posted in 19thC, Engraving, SFW, Tam O'Shanter on 2 January 2010 by redwitch1

Here is another depiction of Nannie’s Dance. (Nannie is, of course, the “winsome wench” in Robert Burn’s Tam O’Shanter (1792). She is the central figure—”plump and strapping in [her] teens”—wearing a “cutty sark” (short shirt) while “merrily footing it round” with a group of witches in a ruined church.)

The artwork is by J. M. Wright, it is titled “The Witch’s Dance In, Tam-O’Shanter” and it appeared in the Complete Works of Roberts Burns, Illustrated (London, George Virtue, 1842). The engraver is S. Smith.

Although Nannie’s negligee is described by Burns as “considerably too short to answer all the purpose of that piece of dress” (i.e. to cover her backside) most illustrators have provided her with a “sark” just as long and substantial as those on the “wither’d beldams, auld and droll” that she is dancing with. This is certainly true of the most famous illustrations, those by John Faed (below), which were published in 1855 and frequently reprinted.

Wright’s “The Witch’s Dance” appeared thirteen years before Faed’s. As you can see below Nannie’s “sark” is shorter and thinner than those of her companions, as it should be, and her left arm is free of her sleeve, exposing half of her torso. Both her companions and the viewer are blessed with a sight of Nannie’s left arm, shoulder and breast. How very risqué for 1842!

[Wright’s Nannie]
[Faed’s Nannie]

Faed (below) followed Burn’s description of the group as comprising “Warlocks and witches in a dance.” He depicts ten(?) figures dancing “hornpipes, jigs, strathspeys, and reels” in pairs. Most, but not all, of the pairs seem to be one male and one female, but because all of the dancers are not clearly visible, and many are not facing the viewer Nannie is the only female clearly visible. (Of the five other figures who are clearly visible, four are males who are facing the viewer and one is a female who is facing away from the viewer.) The impression given is of Nannie as the sole witch dancing among a group of Warlocks.

[Faed’s dancers]

Wright (below) also has ten figures, five female and five male; the six figures seen at length are also equally divided: three female and three male. The central, and the best illuminated, figure is Nannie. She is the focus of the dance, the others dance around her, and although all the female figures have their heads covered, Nannie is the only one wearing a witch’s hat. The impression given is of Nannie as the most important witch dancing among a mixed group of witches and warlocks.

[Wright’s dancers]

Although the Faed composition is better engraved, and Faed may have been the better artist, I prefer Wright’s composition—certainly as far as Nannie and her fellow warlocks and witches are concerned. When it comes to gothic detail it is a closer contest. Both depict “Auld Nick,” but Faed’s devil is a little easier to see. Faed also includes a sarcophagus and skeleton, whereas Wright only has a spirit appearing from above. Faed’s composition is beautifully and convincingly illuminated by candles (look at the shadows they cast), but it is not at all clear how Wright’s scene is illuminated. So, like I say, all credit goes to Faed as an artist, but Wright’s composition is the winner.

The Witch’s Daughter, 1881

Posted in 19thC, Engraving, Lithograph, SFW on 28 December 2009 by redwitch1

Here is something for our blue-moon New Year’s Eve: “The Witch’s Daughter” by Frederick Stuart Church (1842–1924), engraved by J. P. Davys. This lithograph was published in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine [New York], vol. 67, issue 398 (July 1883), p. [164].

When the original sketch of this composition sold by Argosy gallery, New York, at Christie’s in 1990 it was “accompanied by an etching of the same subject which is signed F. S. Church and dated 1881 in the plate.” So my Harper’s lithograph is, in fact, a reprint of the original etching, which was based on a sketch.

The original sketch is described as “signed F. S. Church, [lower right], signed again and inscribed with title and copyright, [lower left]—pencil, pen and black ink on board 13 3/8 x 9 in. [33.2 x 22.8 cm.]” Unfortunately, I have been unable to discover how much it sold for.

According to The New York Times (Sunday, 1 April 1906), p. 7, a painting of “The Witch’s Daughter” was part of the Evan’s Collection in 1906: “The Evans Collection: Exhibition of American Paintings at the Lotos Club”:

The Chairman of the Committee on Art of the Lotos Club has had a congenial task, this time, of arranging an exhibition of pictures from his own collection at Monclair, N.J. … There are in the collection of Mr. W. T. Evans ninety canvases, all by American painters. … Among the figure pieces of note are … and ‘The Witch’s Daughter,’ by F. S. Church, has lured a snow white dove to her hand.

Three years later, on 10 March 1907, Evans donated forty paintings to the National Gallery. Perhaps this painting was among them. If so, I have been unable to find any trace of it after 1906.

If you haven’t seen this image before—like my lithograph of an etching of a sketch of a painting—here is a passage in an article from the Illustrated Weekly Magazine from The New York Times (Wednesday, 19 September 1897):

The Studio of F.S. Church

One of the earliest of Mr. Church’s works to attract widespread public attention was ‘The Witch’s Daughter,’ which is familiar in every American Household through numberless reproductions, and which depicted a dainty maiden clad in flowing, clinging draperies, seaten on the new moon’s silver cresent, conversing with a blinking owl, against a background of flying clouds.”

Note: “every American Household.” So, if you are American and you haven’t seen it there is clearly something wrong with your “Household.” And, note to self, “numberless reproductions.” Why did it take me three years to get one?

Anyway, a final tit-bit for you, in Chapter 6 of her book Famous Pets of Famous People (Boston: D. Lothrop, [1892]), p. 162, Eleanor Lewis writes:

A well-known artist in New York, Mr. F. S. Church, makes frequent and delightful studies of animals and birds although not so much for their own sake, perhaps, as for that of some thought to which they are the fit accessories. Now it is a maiden wandering in desert places, alone, save for the savage beasts her innocence has tamed … there a witch’s daughter in mystic converse with an owl.

Note: owl in “mystic converse.”

Note also: Chapter 7 of this book is titled “Pussy in Private Life.” Really.

Gruss vom Hexentanzplatz, 1899

Posted in 19thC, Postcard, SFW, Woodcut on 14 November 2009 by redwitch1

Here is a Hexentanzplatz postcard you can compare to my previous—and heavily populated—HTL version (i.e. Hold To Light).

The postcard is an unsigned woodblock image, whereas most of the others I have seen are lithographed. It is is dated 28 August 1899; it is postmarked on the same day from Thale and on the following day from “Colenfeld” (i.e. Kolenfeld, which belongs to the city of Wunstorf, in the district of Hanover, Germany).

In this card we have six witches and a couple of bats on their way to the Hexentanzplatz [the witches’ dancing place] on Brocken Mountain in Germany. The leader is riding side-saddle on a pig; she is followed by two witches on brooms, one on a pitch-fork, one riding side-saddle on a goat and one who seems to be standing on the hill-side waving to the others.

Our witches are—as usual for this blog, and for German witch-themed postcards generally—either undressed or under-dressed. Perhaps the ostensible reason for this is that our witches had all sneaked out at night and were in their night-clothes. If so, these witches slept in an interesting array of under-things: from full-length dresses (the witch on the pig), through sleeveless-slips (the witches on the brooms), to just a skirt and no top at all (the witch on the goat).

I think this one is my favourite. It is a very cute goat.

31 Days of Halloween-Day 16-Welcome to the Coven

Posted in 19thC, Halloween Countdown, Photograph, SFW on 16 October 2009 by redwitch1

I know nothing about these nine witches except, as is obvious, that these lovely lasses are from an upper-class private boarding school group of ca. 1890. Think Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975).

In fact, here is my advice for a good night in: drink gin—a lot of it—crank up Picnic at Hanging Rock and with the sounds of Gheorghe Zamfir‘s pan flutes still ringing in your ears, plonk yourself down in front of this picture and have a real good look at it!

BTW: if you can work out what point there is in having a hat-box that is too small for your hat, then please speak up. It is a mystery to me.


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