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Marie-Félicité and older cousin [or sister], 1875? [1880?]
From a collection of glass negatives exposed between about 1875 and 1915, bought at a flea market here in Amsterdam in December of 2004. They had been part of the estate of writer Ethel Portnoy (b. Brooklyn 1929 – d. Den Haag 2004), and she probably got them at a Paris flea market, as she lived there between 1950 and 1970. The negatives themselves were probably the property of Marie-Félicité Joséphine Grandel (b. Paris 8-VIII-1870 – d. Clamart 1-XII-1950). The dates fit anyway.
[UPDATE November 2006 – The genealogical database where I found most of the Grandels seems to have changed its mind or decided to clone Marie-Félicité. There are now three Marie-Félicités, the two new ones having slightlly different names and birth years of 1876 and 1880, respectively. Are they the same person? Sisters? How many girls are in the Grandel family now? Two daughters born later and 4 years apart remove the problem of dating the photos to the prehistory of the dry silver-bromide process, anyway. I need parish records or something.
c. 1875. The first of the 13 x 18 cm plates. The emulsion on this plate is of poorer quality than later ones.
The dry-plate silver-bromide gelatin process was invented in 1870 and was massively popular by 1880. Around 1875 it’s possible the process might have been in use by hobbyists (such as M-F’s father, uncle or grandfather)and/or special-ordered from a photography works, like Antoine Lumière & Fils (the Fils became famous for inventing cinema in 1893, but used the old name for selling photographic glass and film), in Lyon. I still need to confirm this.
The Grandel family lived in Clamart (just outside of Paris, near the Seine), and Marie-Félicité died there, in 1950, after living in Hong Kong. I don’t know for sure this photo was taken in Clamart, but I might as well lump it in with the others in this format, as they are from that town.
Marie-Félicité’s life concided with that of the dry glass-plate process. Film came into use about 1900, and glass plates were still available, but only just, by the time of Marie-Félicité’s death.
Family names and dates courtesy of the kind offices of the Mairie of Clamart, French genealogical records online, the website of the École Polytechnique, and man-months of obsessive Google searching.