Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Unusual Artifacts: A Stereograph, "A Family at Afternoon Tea," 1855-60

A Family at Afternoon Tea
Underwood and Underwood, N.Y.
The Victoria & Albert Museum

We’ve looked at stereographs from my own collection before, but here’s one from the V&A.

To refresh your memory,  a stereograph is a pair of photographic images of the same subject taken from slightly different angles. When viewed through a special “stereo viewer” or “stereoscope”, these images give the illusion of a single three-dimensional image when viewed through a stereoscope designed to hold it.  They remained popular from the 1850s well into the Twentieth Century.

Occasionally, these images were colored by hand in watercolors, paints or inks to make them more life-like.   In this case, I’m glad the image was colored since it gives us an idea of look of a typical American, Victorian home.  Here, we see a group which has been posed in the act of taking tea from a silver tea set and china cups and saucers. Domestic scenes like this one--of a model family like or of the institutions of society such as school, church or marriage --were typical subjects of popular stereographs.

This stereograph was made between 1855 and 1860 by Underwood & Underwood of New York, USA.

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