To contemporary Western eyes, each of these two carved ornaments might look like 19th century funerary artefacts, flower vases for example, which were customarily placed on the graves of the dearly departed. To the Sinophile, however, they are more likely to be brush washers used by a calligrapher or a watercolourist. Each appears to have a narrow pot and a wider one carved deep into the interior of the chunk of stone, where the narrow one might have held the brushes, and the wider pot the water to wash them. The age of these two “vases” – assuming their provenance goes back as gifts to the two daughters of Captain James Day in the 1860s-1870s – is at least 150 years old, and perhaps much older. If they were gifted as a pair of brush washers, why would they be deemed appropriate for these two young sisters? The answer now seems quite obvious: they were the colourists working in Thomas J. Nevin’s studio at 140 Elizabeth Street, Hobart from the late 1860s when Elizabeth Rachel Day became Thomas J. Nevin’s fiancée … … More Treasures passed down from Captain Edward Goldsmith and Captain James Day
Mindful of his growing family after his dismissal in 1880, the Hobart City Corporation retained Nevin’s services as police photographer and bailiff with the Municipal and Territorial Police Forces on the recommendation of Superintendent F. Pedder, Sub-Inspector J. Connor and the Nevin family solicitor, Attorney-General W. R. Giblin. Younger brother Constable John Nevin (Wm John or Jack), the Hobart Gaol messenger in Campbell St, was his assistant when Nevin was required at Oyer sessions at the adjoining Supreme Court sittings. Together they continued to produce prisoner mugshots typical of commercial studio portraiture until 1888 (see this article).
But by January 1881, on dismissal from the Town Hall residency, Thomas Nevin relocated his family to the house his father John Nevin had built at Kangaroo Valley (now Lenah Valley, Tasmania). He resumed commercial photography nearby from his New Town studio. When Elizabeth Rachel and Thomas Nevin’s second daughter and fifth child was born – Minnie (Mary Ann) Nevin – in November 1884 at New Town, her father declared his profession simply as “photographer” on her birth registration form. … More Thomas Nevin at the New Town studio to 1888
Examples of Thomas Nevin’s handwriting can assist in identifying inscriptions on the versos of so many unattributed photographs of the period in public holdings. The handwritten inscription – “Clifford & Nevin, Hobart Town” – which appears on several studio portraits in private and public collections, may be one source of either Nevin’s or Clifford’s calligraphy. … More Signatures and handwriting 1870s