Wednesday 28 October 2020

Unique Wedding “Portraits”

 I have an unusual set of “portraits” of my 2nd great-grandparents done for their wedding in 1851.

On one wall of our living room are photos taken of the brides and grooms from five generations of Shepheard men, from my great-grandfather, James, to my son, also James. In between are my grandfather, father and me. These are all what we would call “normal” wedding pictures, all taken in studios by professional photographers.

But for my 2nd great-grandparents, the portraits are actually black paper cut-outs, glued down on a background with some pencil sketches, and now yellowed with age.

I am not sure how the originals were mounted. My sister had them for many years and gave them to me as a Christmas present. Along with the cut-outs was a description of them:

Everyone has seen these types of cut-outs before. Many show silhouettes of people and family scenes like these. Some are very intricate works of art. Just do an Internet search for Black and white paper cutting art to see some real masterpieces.

These are very special to me because they apparently represent two of my direct ancestors and were done before photography really caught on. If we can believe that the artist did a good representation of the people, then perhaps we can get a glimpse of what they looked like in real life.

I have many wedding photos in my family albums. The oldest goes back to 1877, a picture of a great-granduncle and his new wife on their wedding day. In my direct line, the oldest is one of those that hangs on my wall – my great-grandparents, James & Mary Elizabeth (Pearson) Shepheard, taken on 17 June 1890. The cut-outs are of her parents.

The oldest photo I have is of my great-grandfather’s mother, Mary Crispin (Carpenter) Shepheard. I believe it was taken about 1875.

All my old family photos are prized possessions, but these cut-outs are unique and irreplaceable. They have a special spot all to themselves.