Victorian Fair Themes: An 1890s Wedding Portrait, Los Angeles

by Paul R. Spitzzeri

Today’s highlighted photograph in the “Victorian Fair Themes” series leading up to our Victorian Fair next weekend is loaded with many elements of life during the period.

Firstly, the circa 1890s image features a wedding couple that clearly come from the upper classes of Los Angeles society.  While the nuptial attire may not necessarily reflect that (perhaps middle or working class people might splurge for having fine clothing for their wedding day), take a look at the surroundings in that house!  Note the bride’s bouquet resting on the rug next to her.  Incidentally, while the Homestead’s collection has a number of wedding portraits, this is a rare example of one that is not in a studio.

It is a parlor with many decorative elements that evoke a lifestyle far above that of most Angelenos.  The room appears to be of a substantial size in what would correspondingly be a commodious residence and the very large rug on the floor is one indicator.  Part of a beautiful rosewood square grand piano is against the wall and this has the dual purpose of providing music and serving as an elegant piece of fine furniture.

Wedding Portrait In Home 2014.125.1.3
This 1890s portrait from the Homestead’s collection shows a well-heeled couple seated in the ornately decorated parlor of what is almost certainly a large residence (perhaps an exuberant Queen Anne?) in Los Angeles.  It is unusual in the museum’s holdings in that most wedding portraits in the collection were taken in photography studios.

Another interesting decorative aspect is the number of potted plants, including the ubiquitous palms (one of them on a small marble top table with embossed legs), in the room, augmented by a bouquet of roses on a table behind the couple, vases of flowers on the piano, and garlands gracing the tall and narrow opening to the corner alcove.

Bright streams of sunshine pouring in through the large windows adds a nice backdrop to the couple and the delicate lace curtains are another notable nod to the era’s interior decorative aesthetic.

On the walls are a couple of small framed pictures hanging on wires from a picture rail out of view at the top of the wall.  At the end of one window is a decorative bracket that adds a nice touch to the room, as well.

Unfortunately, the photograph does not have identification as to the names of the bridal couple or the location of the house, but it is representative in many ways of the interior decoration of upper class homes in greater Los Angeles during the late Victorian era.

The city was growing, the American economy was becoming an international force, and those who most benefited from these conditions built and decorated their homes to reflect their rising fortunes.  Whether or not the couple maintained a lifestyle befitting the conditions shown in the photograph, it seems obvious that the image was carefully composed with that expectation clearly in mind!

3 thoughts

  1. That’s an amazing image. There’s so much detail that it really gives you a sense of life in that time. Fantastic.

  2. So much detail. It really gives a sense of life in that time. Fantastic image.

  3. Thanks, Luis, for your interest in the post and the blog.

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