Posted 8 years ago
Shown here is a technically excellent, charming carte-de-visite portrait of a young girl by G. Frank E. Pearsall. I became fascinated with Frank Pearsall after acquiring one of his historically important cameras (only three known). I have posted Pearsall's camera and several related items here on CW.
This CDV is probably one of the earliest portraits from Frank’s first gallery located at Fulton and Tillary Streets, Brooklyn, N.Y. As background, Pearsall worked under the famous daguerreotypist Jeremiah Gurney and Frank’s earliest images as a solo artist include a back stamp noting; “Late principal Artist of Gurney’s Gallery,” which helps date this particular CDV. Over the next 30 years, Frank Pearsall was Brooklyn’s leading gallery and portraitist.
At first glance this portrait of a cute young girl with necklace looks like a traditional CDV. What makes this particular image especially interesting is the oval shape framing the girl’s portrait. It is actually part of the image and not a physical mask placed over a cased tintype or print. This is known as a “vignette portrait” and was very popular as early as the 1850s.
Vignette portraits were made by positioning a white cardboard frame with cutout between the camera and sitter. The vignette effect was soft / blurred when the frame was placed close to the camera. A hard edge, as shown here, was from the cardboard being located close to the sitter.
The second picture is from an 1886 reference by Edward Estabrook (tintypist and author) showing how vignette portraits were made in a gallery setting.