Nevin’s portraits of children gifted to the Duke 1868

January 18th, 1868.

On the day fixed for his departure from Tasmania, 18th January 1868, H.R.H Prince Alfred was presented with an album of photographs.The album contained “eighty three photographs illustrative of the scenery of Tasmania, forty eight portraits of children born in the colony, and nine plates immediately connected with the Prince’s visit” according to the report of the visit written by John George Knight (transcript and link below).

Among the 48 photographic portraits of Tasmanian children in the album was this portrait by Thomas Nevin and his partner Robert Smith:

Nevin & Smith verso 1868

Nevin & Smith children album 1868

Click on images for large view

[Studio portrait of two children] Nevin & Smith.
Digital image(s):
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.
John Etkins collection.
Photographer printed on verso: From / Nevin & Smith / late Bock’s / 140 Elizabeth Street / Hobart Town.
Source/Donor: Gift of Mr John Etkins; 2005.

The photograph bears a rare studio stamp by Nevin & Smith on the verso which features the royal insignia of three feathers and a coronet, banded with the German “ICH DIEN” (I serve). This variation of the Nevin & Smith stamp has never before surfaced in either private or public collections. The wording “From NEVIN & SMITH” clearly indicates it was intended to be to pre-SENT-ed to its royal recipient.

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 document the Duke’s visit, notably Samuel Clifford and George Cherry, and possibly Cato is referring to this group, but the 48 children’s portraits as a collection per se taken by Tasmanian photographers to commemorate the event as a Royal gift has yet to come to light.

Thomas Nevin set up the firm Nevin & Smith ca. 1865 at the City Photographic Establishment, 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart Town, in partnership with Robert Smith. However, by February 1868, just weeks after the Duke’s visit, the partnership was dissolved.

Nevin and Smith dissolution 26 Feb 1868

Above: Dissolution notice published in The Mercury on 26 February 1868 of the partnership between Robert Smith and Thomas Nevin. William Robert Giblin, later Attorney-General and Premier, was Thomas Nevin’s solicitor and witness, and subsequently his mentor and employer for the colonial government’s prisoner photographs commission.

… on Saturday 18th January (the day fixed for his departure) on board the Galatea, to his Excellency the Governor, Mrs Gore Browne and Miss Gore Browne, Her Majesty’s Ministers, the Chairman of the Reception Committee, the Hon JM Wilson MLC, and Mr Tarleton and advantage was taken of this farewell interview to place in the Prince’s hands the album of photographs of Tasmanian scenery which had been prepared under the direction of the Reception Committee for presentation to him from the colonists as a memorial of his visit. The album contained eighty three photographs illustrative of the scenery of Tasmania forty eight portraits of children born in the colony and nine plates immediately connected with the Prince’s visit. The title page was drawn by Mr Alfred Randall and illustrated by Mr WC Piguenit. His Royal Highness was pleased to request that the Reception Committee would furnish him with duplicate copies of all the pictures for the illustration of a work which his Royal Highness is preparing in connection with his visit to the Australasian Colonies. After the presentation the guests sat down to luncheon with his Royal Highness in the state reception saloon of the Galatea. Lord Newry and the Prince’s suite were also present. The Prince’s guests bade their Royal host farewell about half past two pm when steam was got up and the anchors were weighed. At three o clock the noble vessel steamed slowly down the estuary of the Derwent and the Prince bidding adieu to Tasmania proceeded on his voyage to Sydney.

Source: p210 Narrative of the Visit of the visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh…
Narrative of the visit of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh to the colony of Victoria, Australia by John George Knight. Download pdf here.

This second portrait of a child (below) may have been another of the several taken by Nevin specifically for the Duke’s album which he then reprinted for inclusion in the later duplicate album – the second version – which the Duke requested from the Reception Committee. Since Nevin and Smith had dissolved their partnership less than a month after the Duke’s request, Nevin had no choice but to reprint this one with a stamp bearing his name and the Royal Arms insignia, a stamp which he continued to use throughout the 1870s for official and public commissions, and notably for his government commission to photograph prisoners at the Port Arthur and Hobart Town gaols for their prison records and the Police Criminal Registers.

Verso of baby with sprig by Nevin

Baby with sprig by Nevin

Above: unknown child with sprig of holly, photographed by Thomas Nevin.
Hand-tinting with this red and green sprig motif appears in other cartes by Nevin.
See also this post: Thomas Nevin’s Christmas Cards.

Copyright © The Lucy Batchelor Collection 2009 Arr.