# 43408

Photographer unknown

Ambrotype of two amputees, almost certainly Civil War casualties. U.S.A., 1861-65.

$1,500.00 AUD

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Ambrotype (wet collodion positive), 80 x 70 mm (sight); housed in a double elliptical brass mat under cover glass, in a half leather case with geometric design; the ambrotype has some tiny mould spiders, minor crazing and specks of dust, but is otherwise in very good condition.

It has been estimated that 60,000 surgical amputations were performed on soldiers during the American Civil War. Therefore it does not seem unreasonable to speculate that this poignant portrait shows two affectionate comrades who have both lost their right lower limb 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.