Ambrotype of a handsome young man, circa 1855.
[Probably U.K. or Australia : photographer unidentified, second half of the 1850s]. Quarter-plate ambrotype with hand colouring, 96 x 71 mm (sight), housed in its original wooden-based burgundy leather case with embossed velvet lining, 120 x 95 mm, both brass clasps working; the ambrotype is in fine condition (without any loss to the black emulsion), still sealed beneath the original glass with plain brass mat and ormulu preserver.
Ambrotype photographs, created using the wet plate collodion process developed by the English inventor Frederick Scott Archer, came into vogue in Europe and North America from around 1854 as a cheaper alternative to the daguerreotype. They remained a commercially popular photographic process until the mid 1860s. A glass plate covered with a thin layer of collodion, then dipped in a silver nitrate solution, was exposed to the subject while still wet, then developed and fixed. When the reverse of this negative image was coated with a dark emulsion such as varnish or paint, the resulting image appeared as a positive. The process required the expertise and experience of a professional photographer. The ambrotype had reached the height of its popularity by the early 1860s, when it was superceded by the albumen print.