American Boy Dresses: Assessment Problems--Figure 7

Figure 1.-This is another unidentified portrait. All that is know for sure is that the portrait was taken in Harlem (a New York New City burough), New York. We would estimate it was taken in the 1880s because of the clothes and mount. The child looks to be about 8-9 years old and is wearing a jacketed dress with a full skirt. There are velvet lapels. The age of the child suggests a girl. The face looks a little boyish and the child has short hair and bangs.

Here we note a cabinet card portrait of an unidentified child wearing a light-colored jacketed dress with velvet lapels. There is a large front ribbon. The child looks to be about 8-9 years old. The portrait is undated, but the clothing and mount style suggests the 1880s. The dealer suggests that the child was a boy. Looking at the face, this could be, but we are not sure. As in many cases we have few definative clues. The primary element that we can use is the hair style, bangs cut low close to the eye brows. Hair is often an important clue. Length can be misleading. While boys commonly had short hair and girs long hair, there are plenty examples of just the opposite. Center parts commonly indicate a center part. We are not yet sure about the gender connotations of bangs. An interesting aspect of this portarit is that the portrait was taken in the Harlem studio of Aimé Dupont, a French-born sculptor who went bankrupt in Paris and moved to New York in 1884 to open what proved to be a successful photography studio. Dupont was renowned for his photos of opera singers and Broadway stars, and this photo does provide a possibly important clue. The child is resting his elbow on a copy of the Works of William Shakespeare, which in turn lies on a table covered by a Persian rug. At the time scholarship and education was more associated with men and boys. Other than the bangs which we do not fully understand, this is a strong clue that the child is a boy. Most boys had been breeched by age 8-8 years of age. There were, however, plenty of exceptions and a boy growing up in an artistic, literary, theatrical community and educated at home might well have been kept in dresses by an adoring mother. As swiyh all the pages in this section, we welcome any insights readers may have to help understand this image.


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Created: 9:01 PM 11/28/2014
Last updated: 9:01 PM 11/28/2014