Hand-colored albumen print, carte de visite
9 cm x 5 cm
Sitting next to a chrysanthemum, symbolising nobility, and wearing talons on her fingers, the subject of this photograph presumably came from a high status family. The color green used on the floor became common in Chinese photographs of this period. It had a symbolic function, suggesting health and prosperity, as well as an artistic one, making the reds in the picture appear more vivid.
Inexpensive, portable, and intimate, the carte de visite (or calling card) format flourished during the 1860s. Cartes could be collected, mounted in albums, easily shared with family or sent with letters. Hand-coloring was a special service for which studios charged extra. The extraordinary delicacy of this woman’s dress indicates this colorist was highly skilled. Most colorists were women, whose contributions remain largely anonymous.