A proliferation of flowers and floral arrangements surrounds a single casket: they hang upside down, with notes from their senders still attached; they are stacked on top of and below the coffin in elaborate shapes and configurations--including a sickle moon with star, and a sheaf of wheat. Of note on this particular image is the fact that two areas incorporate super-imposed photographs -- one, of a floral "X" shape on the left, and, most importantly, an image of a man who is ostensibly the deceased within the picture frame, right. It is likely that this was a stock image of some kind, intended to show a sense of respect for the dead, in which a specific new, image could be placed, customizing the scene for patrons who might no otherwise have been able to afford such a show of mourning for their beloved.
An image full of Victoriana, embedded symbolism, as well as racial/social interest.
It should also be noted that the photographers were African-Americans practicing in Saginaw, Michigan. They were originally from New York, later setting up shop in Pennsylvania with a very fine reputation for Ambrotypes (made by Genalvin J. Goodridge [1829-1867]). However, a false extortion scheme wrongly accusing Genalvin of sexual assault led to his imprisonment and subsequent death. Brothers Wallace L. and William O. had the business at the time this photograph was made.
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Medium Gelatin Silver Print
Mount on Cardboard Mount
Photo Date 1900c Print Date 1900c.
Dimensions 7.5 x 9.5 in. (191 x 241 mm)
Photo Country United States (USA)
Photographer Country United States (USA)
Charles Schwartz Ltd.