SIXTH PLATE AMBROTYPE OF A BLACK NURSE AND WHITE CHILD

$375.00

Quantity Available: 1

Item Code: 1138-2040

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This is a provocative image that carries all sorts of different meanings for the subjects of the photo, those who commissioned it, viewers at the time, and viewers now. To call it challenging is an understatement. The background is plain, with what may be an out-of-focus table at right rear. At center a seated black woman holds a rather chubby white baby to one side in her lap. The baby looks straight into the camera lens. The woman deflects her gaze. She holds the baby with one arm, her hand just visible at right. She holds her other hand palm up in her lap, in a gesture of revealing or presenting the baby.

The photographer has delicately tinted red the cheeks of both woman and baby. The child is covered by a floral fabric that mostly conceals other clothing. The woman’s dress is polka-dot patterned and has a lace collar. Her hair is dressed and pulled back in a late 1850s fashion, and she wears drop earrings. The image falls within a genre depicting an enslaved black woman charged with acting as nurse and caretaker for a child of her owners, the quality of her dress indicating her position in their household and indicating their wealth and social status. In later years it may have acquired a sentimental patina for those who commissioned it- the parents of the child and owners of the woman, who had little choice in the proceedings and whose own family, if any, was likely claimed by them as property as well. This is a strong image that pushes forward issues of race and history, racial relations and their portrayal, and our continuing debates and struggles to interpret and understand our past. It deserves a place in a sophisticated collection relating to the Civil War or the American experience as a whole.

The plate has some slight rubbing from the mat along the perimeter, but is very clear and has good resolution. It is housed in half of an embossed leatherette case, with glass, mat, and frame in place.  [sr] [ph:m]

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