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Picturing the family
Picturing the family

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4.6 Touch and feeling

Activity 12

Images 27 and 28 represent the conventional pose of the newly-wedded couple who would visit the studio sometime after marriage to commemorate the event with a portrait. (We shall look at wedding portraits again later in the course.)

How would you characterize the nature of their physical contact? Jot down a few words to describe what you see.

Wedding photograph of William Henry Toyne Brocklesby and Susan Smalley
Image 27 Photographer/Painter: F. Beales, Boston, Lincolnshire. Subject: Wedding photograph of William Henry Toyne Brocklesby and Susan Smalley, 1890.
A wedding photograph
Image 28 Photographer/Painter: Wilkinson & Moor, Manchester. Subject: Details unknown, c.1895.


This is not the touch of desire or passion; no thrill of excitement passes between man and woman, no reciprocal spark of emotion – nor even indeed warmth or gentle affection. Instead, it is a touch that requires no response, cool, impersonal, apparently devoid of feeling. In conventional Victorian commercial portraiture, touch conveyed possession or close relationship. If touch conveys feeling then the portrait requires closer examination and explanation.