# 43411

Photographer unknown

Ambrotype of a young woman holding a cased photograph. U.S.A., 1862-65.

  • Sold

Sixth-plate ambrotype (wet collodion positive) with extensive applied colour, 70 x 80 mm (sight); housed in an oval brass mat under cover glass, in a wall case with geometric design; the ambrotype is in very good condition.

Sourced in the United States, this is an unusual Civil War-era ambrotype portrait. The woman is quite clearly showing off her wedding band, and the cased photograph she holds up for the camera is quite likely to be of her husband, away fighting for the Union or the Confederacy.

The ambrotype – from the Greek ambrotos, “immortal” – is created using the wet plate collodion process developed by the English inventor Frederick Scott Archer, which came into vogue in Europe and North America from around 1854 as a cheaper alternative to the daguerreotype. A glass plate covered with a thin layer of collodion, then dipped in a silver nitrate solution, is exposed to the subject while still wet, then developed and fixed. When the reverse of this negative image is coated with a dark emulsion such as varnish or paint, the resulting image appears as a positive. The process requires the expertise and experience of a professional photographer. Every ambrotype is a unique image that can only be duplicated by copying with another camera.