Moderator Control Panel ]

Photos on ivory?

Have you got problems identifying people or buildings in a photograph? Share your photo queries with other users

Photos on ivory?

Postby Ivan Watson » Thu Jun 14, 2018 7:55 pm

Hello all,

This interesting item came from my grandfather and my best guess is that it is a portrait of his maternal grandmother (Matilda Jannett (nee Snare) Henderson, 1851 - 1933). She married Clement Henderson in 1871. Clement was a Master Mariner and according to family lore, took his wife and young children on long sea voyages around the world. Older relatives recall hearing their daughter speak of a two-year voyage to many dozens of ports in Asia, the Far East and North and South America. This likely took place in the 1880s.

My questions are:
1. Were photographs ever printed on ivory. This looks like a photograph portrait, printed on ivory, then hand-tinted.
2. My guess is that it dates circa 1870. Does this make sense? Does the attire (long black dress, pose, or any other visual clue support this or indicate otherwise?)
3. If this is indeed a photo on ivory, where was it made? England or at port in one of the many countries visited by ship?

Other considerations - it looks like it may have been framed at some point, and there is evidence that paper with letters was at one point glued to the back. Any help is much appreciated. This is a particularly evocative and mysterious portrait for me! I've included images of the front and back.


Capture_back.PNG (365.02 KiB) Viewed 1949 times
MysteryIvory.jpg (1.26 MiB) Viewed 1949 times
Ivan Watson
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Oct 27, 2016 7:49 am

Re: Photos on ivory?

Postby Photo conservator » Fri Sep 28, 2018 4:35 pm

Dear Ivan,

It is likely that your photograph is an Opaltype. Opalotypes were printed onto sheets of opaque, translucent white glass; early opalotypes were sometimes hand-tinted with colours to enhance their effect. The effect of opalotype has been compared "to watercolor or even pastel in its softer coloring and tender mood." "Opalotype portraits...for beauty and delicacy of detail, are equal to ivory miniatures."

The basic opalotype technique, was patented in 1857 by Glover and Bold of Liverpool. Opalotypes exploited two basic techniques, using either the transfer of a carbon print onto glass, or the exposure of light-sensitive emulsion on the glass surface to the negative. Opalotype photography, never common, was practiced in various forms until it waned and disappeared in the 1930s. "Milk glass positive" is another alternative term for an opalotype.

If you would like any advice on caring for your family photographs and papers, please get in contact. I am an accredited conservator.

With very best wishes,
Photo conservator
Posts: 1
Joined: Fri Sep 28, 2018 4:24 pm

Return to Photo identification

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest