Another rare Nevin & Smith studio stamp

The State Library of Victoria has recently digitised these two photographs from the John Etkins Collection, donated in 2005.

The first is an oval-framed vignette of an unknown woman seated against a dark background. The verso is stamped with Thomas Nevin’s most frequently used studio stamp for private clientele – the more decorative version of an early Alfred Bock’s – a belt encircling both his name and Bock’s, containing his address, and topped with a kangaroo and the words “Ad Altiora” . Nevin’s studio, The City Photographic Establishment, at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, was originally Alfred Bock’s until insolvency in 1865 predicated his departure to Victoria .

STATE LIBRARY OF VICTORIA
[Studio portrait of a woman, half-length, to left] T. Nevin.
Digital image(s):
Creator: Nevin, Thomas J., photographer.
Title:[Studio portrait of a woman, half-length, to left] [picture] / T. Nevin.
Access/Copyright: Reproduction rights: State Library of Victoria
Accession number(s):
H2005.34/2003
H2005.34/2003A
Date(s) of creation: [ca. 1867-ca. 1875]
Medium: 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount : albumen silver ;
Dimensions: 11 x 7 cm.
Collection: John Etkins collection.
Notes: Title assigned by cataloguer.
Not dated but Nevin worked at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, between 1867-1875.
Ref.: Australians behind the camera, directory of early Australian photographers, 1841-1945 / Sandy Barrie, 2002.
Photographer printed on verso: City Photographic Establishment / T. Nevin / late / A. Bock / 140 / Elizabeth St. / Hobart Town.
Source/Donor: Gift of Mr John Etkins; 2005.

The second photograph bears a rare studio stamp by Nevin & Smith on the verso which features the insignia of the Prince of Wales: three feathers, a coronet and banded with the German “ICH DIEN” (I serve). This version of a studio stamp used by the firm of  Nevin & Smith is also held in the private collection of Liam Peters.. The Nevin Family Collection holds one portrait (of Thomas Nevin’s sister-in-law Mary Sophia Day) which is stamped verso with their names, but the stamp is very different.

These two children were possibly photographed for an album of photographic prints depicting the children of Tasmania which was gifted to Alfred Earnest Albert, the Duke of Edinburgh, during his visit to Hobart in 1868.

According to Jack Cato in The Story of the Camera in Australia (1977 ed. p.58), a group of Tasmanian photographers was invited to contribute. Cato says:

“All the cities presented the Duke with official albums of photographs, and many photographers presented private ones. Henry Johnstone gave him a book of pictures of the beautiful women of Victoria. Charles Nettleton gave a book of prints of Melbourne and the countryside. But best of all was the one given by the photographers of Tasmania – a collection of prints showing the beautiful children of the island. The Duke was so charmed with it that he requested a duplicate album be made and sent to his mother.”

Where is this album? Four photographers were commissioned by the colonial government of Tasmania to cover the Duke’s visit, notably Samuel Clifford and George Cherry, and possibly Cato is referring to this group, but an album of children’s portraits taking by this group to commemorate the event as a Royal gift has yet to come to light.

The Illustrated London News of July-December 1868 reported that on his return, the Duke presented the Prince of Wales with Australian Birds and Animals. This photograph bearing the Prince’s insignia was also destined for the Prince: the wording clearly says: “From Nevin & Smith …”.

The studio decor – notably the carpet and chair – differs from Nevin’s studio portraits of his parents, brother, wife, his own wedding photo, and those of private clientele taken later, in the 1870s. However, the same childish hand has been at work here, heavily daubing the curtain with the same inept strokes and the same mulberry colouring evident in other photographs in private collections, for example, this one of a young man with a stereoscope, from The McCullagh Collection. Could they have all come from the same album belonging to a household with children? The colouring was certainly NOT done by Nevin in his studio. His hand-tinting on the portraits of his wife Elizabeth Rachel, and sister-in-law Mary Sophia, is very delicate and subtle.

This studio stamp – with the Prince of Wales insignia – is the second type of stamp from Thomas Nevin’s studio that bears an official insignia. His other government stamp, which he used on the verso of several portraits of Tasmanian convicts while contracted as prison photographer at Port Arthur and the Hobart Gaol, features the lion and unicorn rampant. It was used on decorations for official functions during the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit (see banneret below).

STATE LIBRARY OF VICTORIA
[Studio portrait of two children] Nevin & Smith.
Digital image(s):
Creator: Nevin & Smith, photographer.
Title: [Studio portrait of two children] [picture] / Nevin & Smith.
Access/Copyright: Reproduction rights: State Library of Victoria
Accession number(s):
H2005.34/2004
H2005.34/2004A
Date(s) of creation: [ca. 1867-ca. 1875]
Medium: 1 photographic print on carte de visite mount : albumen silver, hand col. ;
Dimensions: 11 x 7 cm.
Collection: John Etkins collection.
Contents/Summary:
Both standing on either side of a chair, whole-length, full face, boy on left, girl on right.
Notes:
Title assigned by cataloguer.
Not dated but Nevin worked at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, between 1867-1875.
Ref.: Australians behind the camera, directory of early Australian photographers, 1841-1945 / Sandy Barrie, 2002.
Photographer printed on verso: From / Nevin & Smith / late Bock’s / 140 Elizabeth Street / Hobart Town.
Source/Donor:
Gift of Mr John Etkins; 2005.


Above: Silk banneret with Royal Arms from a ball given in Alfred’s honour at Hobart, Jan. 1868
Source: State Library of NSW
Below: T. J. Nevin’s official Royal Arms government contractor stamp on verso of photograph of prisoner William Smith, taken at the Hobart Gaol 1874.

Recto and verso of photograph of prisoner Wm Smith per Gilmore (3)
Verso with T. J. Nevin’s government contractor stamp printed with the Royal Arms insignia.
Carte numbered “199” on recto
QVMAG Ref: 1985.p.131