Incredibly exceptional large-format hand-tinted studio portrait photo, circa 1871, capturing a young baseball player in full uniform posing with a bat. The photographer's credit "H. Noss - New Brighton, Pa." is printed along the base of the original matting. This is an extraordinary early baseball image, one of the few hand-tinted baseball photographs we have ever seen dating from the early 1870s, and by far the largest and finest we have ever handled. This is a museum-quality piece. For centuries before the invention of photography, professional portrait artists offered their services to the wealthy. This was naturally a very expensive process. When photography first came into being, photographic studios sprang up, and photo portrait artists were able to offer their services from their studios. A photograph was not a painting, but because it was a new and exciting medium, presented a perfect image of the subject, and was quicker, and much more reasonable in cost, photographic studios flourished. That did not mean the end to the more expensive and noble art of portraiture; and painting, of course, is an art form that is popular to this day. The hand-tinting of photography is the intersection of these two arts, and the early example offered here is not only extraordinary in quality and size, it is one of the few baseball photographs of this type we have seen.
Although the process of hand-tinting photographs began in the 1840s, it was both an expensive and time consuming process, especially during its early years. Normally, the coloring process on photos was minor and consisted of adding natural flesh tones to help improve the appearance of the subject. In this example, the color work is extensive and serves to highlight the blue tones of the uniform. The full tinting of the drapes in the background further accentuates the overall visual appeal of the piece. The high quality of the work done here is not surprising, given the photographer. Henry Noss, who was said to be the first professional photographer west of the Alleghenies, opened his studio in the 1850s and soon established himself as one of the premier practitioners of his art. He was also the patriarch of one of the town's most prominent families. The identity of the subject here is revealed on the reverse by the vintage handwritten notation in pencil that reads "Fred Silas Merrick - 18 yrs old." In examining a genealogy of the Merrick family, we found that a Fredrick Silas Merrick was born on June 30, 1853, in New Brighton, Pennsylvania. If Merrick was indeed eighteen years old at the time of this photo, it would definitively date this piece to either late 1871 or early 1872. The photo (approximately 6.5 x 9 inches) remains housed in its original matting and is in Near Mint condition. The matting (8 x 10 inches) displays moderate edge wear and is in Excellent condition. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $1,880
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