This charming ambrotype was thought to have been produced by one of Australia’s most important early photographers, Thomas Glaister, owning to the presence of the Glaister stamp on the case. However, superb varnish was one of Glaister’s hallmarks and this ambrotype is not varnished. In addition, the hand-colouring is not considered to be to Glaister’s standard. As such, it is possible that the ambrotype was inserted into this case at a later date, not least because there is no form of blackening behind the image. This was standard practice to prevent the viewer seeing through to the inside of the case. The Eichmeyer ‘book’ case, patented in 1855 by Henry A Eichmeyer of Philadelphia, were made of fine leather and beautifully put together. Glaister certainly used these but the ambrotype is probably not his specifically and could have been made by one of his sons in the 1860s when they worked as travelling photographers. Regardless of who took the image, it is a charming colonial portrait which in size is typical of the period – it can easily be held in the hand.
Ambrotypes were developed in the 1850s. They were faster and cheaper to make than daguerreotypes, yet were still unique objects.
1. 1989, ‘Masterpieces of Australian photography’, Josef Lebovic Gallery, Sydney p 25
© Art Gallery of New South Wales Photography Collection Handbook, 2007
ambrotype, colour dyes
6.5 x 9.0 cm sight; 9.3 x 11.9 cm case
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Shown in 5 exhibitions
Masterpieces of Australian Photography, Josef Lebovic Gallery, Kensington, 24 Jun 1989–22 Jul 1989
Selected recent acquisitions, 1989, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 05 Sep 1989–17 Dec 1989
Reflections in time: 19th century portrait photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 13 Oct 2005–11 Dec 2005
What's in a face? aspects of portrait photography, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 24 Sep 2011–05 Feb 2012
The photograph and Australia, 21 Mar 2015–08 Jun 2015
Referenced in 3 publications
Judy Annear, Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection, 'The photograph and portraiture', pg.15-31, Sydney, 2007, 14 (colour illus.), 23 (colour illus.).
Natasha Bullock, Reflections in time: 19th century portrait photography, Sydney, 2005. no catalogue numbers
Josef Lebovic Gallery and Helen Ennis, Masterpieces of Australian Photography, The Ambrotype and the Daguerreotype, Sydney, 1989, 24, 25 (illus.). cat. no. 35