Family photograph, artist unknown

Family photograph, artist unknown

Family photograph
Artist unknown
Platinum print
Museum no. E.2283:191-1997
The Ashton Collection

This photograph is taken from a family photograph album. Most of the photographs in it are printed on platinum paper, which was introduced in 1879. Such a photograph was expensive to produce and enjoyed for its delicate tonal gradations and matt surface.

This family photograph album contains single and group portraits and depictions of sports and pastimes that would have amused family, friends and visitors. It is a personal keepsake and document of a wealthy family of the 1890s. Many Victorian and Edwardian family photograph albums such as these were acquired by the V&A in the 1950s and 60s to show examples of the dress of that period.

Throughout most of the 19th century women had few legal rights to property, money, children, or even, after marriage, their own bodies. However, there were great changes in attitudes during the last decade of the century. The traditional role of women was questioned and some women openly defied convention. They educated themselves by reading widely and took up what were seen as 'un-ladylike' activities such as smoking and cycling. The free movement of the bicycle was seen as a symbol of equality and personal freedom.

The dress worn by the ladies in this photograph is typical of the 1890s. They wear high collars with puffed, leg of mutton sleeves. The dresses are full length but quite slim.