By Eileen and Paul Goldfinger
We found this photograph at the Ocean Grove flea market, some years ago. At first, we were drawn to it because it was in a beautiful blue glass frame.
But then we noticed the lovely portrait of an elegant woman who seemed mysterious. The hairdo is probably from the twenties or thirties and is likely an example of a “finger wave.” She’s wearing lipstick and she probably has makeup on. Her expression is blank except for the slightest suggestion of a smile. It looks like she is wearing a coat or jacket with a fur collar. The material is shimmery. What is it?
There was no date, but there was a little dedication at the bottom. It says, “To my dear sister with all my love—Adelaide.”
The inscription is written in a delicate ornate and crystal-clear style. She separates a few letters with tiny spaces between–sort of a combination of cursive and printing. People don’t write on photographs anymore, and, in fact, they often take their own digital photos and then leave them in their cameras or on their computers, never to be printed or shared, except in the form of digital images on phones, iPads, or Facebook pages. No one can actually touch such a picture.
But Adelaide had her portrait done by a professional photographic artist. She probably was very particular in her selection. Every town back-when had a photo studio. Remember the work of Disfarmer which we presented on this blog? Blogfinger article about Disfarmer, portrait artist.
An actual photograph, made on film and printed on paper by an expert, as in this case, is an object of beauty that transcends the actual subject matter. Some photographers today are learning old black and white methods such as platinum or albumin printing or silver printing in a darkroom with special papers, in order to capture those wonderful textures, tints and gradations of grey seen in photographs like this one.
The name Adelaide is from the Germanic and means “noble kind.” It was popular early in the 20th century, but by 1950, girl babies were no longer given that name. But then, as if rising from the dead, the name has regained popularity starting in 2005. Now it is said to be quite popular.
On the Broadway stage (1950,) there is a character named Miss Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls.” She is a nightclub performer who is Nathan Detroit’s girlfriend. ”Adelaide’s Lament” is her solo in the first act when she develops psychosomatic symptoms of a cold due to her inability to get Nathan to marry her.
Here is “Adelaide’s Lament” from Guys and Dolls (1950 Tony for best musical.) By Vivian Blaine.