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Possible second photograph of Emily Dickinson
September 5, 2012 9:35 AM   Subscribe

The only authenticated photgraph of Emily Dickinson is of a 16 year old girl. Amherst College now believes that a privately owned daguerrotype shows the poet as a 28 year old woman - about the time she wrote the "Master" letters.
posted by Egg Shen (33 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
It looks kind of like an age-enhanced version of the earlier photo that they might have put on a Victorian milk carton bottle.

HAST THOU SEEN THIS POETESS?
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:46 AM on September 5, 2012 [17 favorites]


So, is Aimee Mann a time traveler or a vampire? Or both?
posted by The World Famous at 9:50 AM on September 5, 2012


And can someone get her on the phone so we can finally settle the question of what songs were on Emily Dickinson's iPod other than Oh Susanna and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?
posted by The World Famous at 9:53 AM on September 5, 2012


This is cool, but my lazy-ass self is mightily annoyed that the Guardian didn't splice together the two photographs so we could see them side-by-side without opening a new window.
posted by oinopaponton at 9:55 AM on September 5, 2012 [4 favorites]


This should really be the third, but Amherst is for some reason very wary of acknowledging the previous second known photograph.
posted by RogerB at 9:55 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


DAT NASOLABIAL FOLD.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:56 AM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


I thought the first was a screen test for the 1920 blockbuster "Huckleberry Finn".
posted by spicynuts at 9:59 AM on September 5, 2012


I like how she still looks like she's trying to kill me with her mind.
posted by The Whelk at 10:02 AM on September 5, 2012 [9 favorites]


you sir have boots of lead.
posted by clavdivs at 10:13 AM on September 5, 2012


(wait, physic-power Emily Dickinson teams up with Drunken master Poe in order to fight ....lemme get a pen.)
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 AM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Master letters are awesome. Such an amazing mind she had. Thanks for this!
posted by emmet at 10:17 AM on September 5, 2012


RogerB, it's interesting to compare all three. Thanks for pointing that other photo out.
posted by larrybob at 11:07 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's yet another daguerreotype speculated to be Emily Dickinson. I don't think so - upper lip looks too long.
posted by larrybob at 11:17 AM on September 5, 2012


The tour of Dickinson's home in Amherst is fascinating, and reveals a lighter side of her cloistered existence than I would have expected. That said, the docents at her museum bore a reverence toward her that verged on worship. I've toured many authors' homes; rarely have I seen the level of ardor I saw displayed there.
posted by kinnakeet at 11:25 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Larger image of new daguerreotype, here.

I visited the Emily Dickinson museum last week. Their gift shop sells copies of Ruth Allen Jones excellent article '"Neighbor -- and friend -- and Bridegroom --": William Smith Clark as Emily Dickinson's Master Figure'.

Article on Project Muse

Article about Ruth Owen Jones and her research
posted by BigSky at 11:40 AM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


i think the gura photo is genuine but this isn't - no freckles.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:04 PM on September 5, 2012


in addition to that, it might not be genuine but people in that era always seemed to have some serious amounts of gravitas going on.
posted by sgt.serenity at 12:06 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Smile"?
posted by psoas at 12:06 PM on September 5, 2012


i think the gura photo is genuine but this isn't - no freckles.

What?

We're talking about Emily Dickinson. She's kind of a big deal. She's an object of study interest by a significant number of very intelligent people. If this photograph is being put forward as a likely image of her by the Emily Dickinson Museum and Amherst College it probably can't be dismissed on the grounds of "not enough freckles".

Emily Dickinson Museum article

Amherst Special Collections article

Opthamologist Susan Pepin's report
posted by BigSky at 12:16 PM on September 5, 2012 [2 favorites]


in addition to that, it might not be genuine but people in that era always seemed to have some serious amounts of gravitas going on.

Largely explained by the fact that the exposure time for portrait daguerreotypes was approximately 1-2 minutes long.

From the photographer's perspective, lively expressions were . . . . . . frowned upon.

Yeahhhhhh!
posted by jeremias at 12:22 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


And can someone get her on the phone so we can finally settle the question of what songs were on Emily Dickinson's iPod other than Oh Susanna and Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

The Yellow Rose of Texas and the Theme from Gilligan's Island.
posted by maryr at 12:28 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


If the daguerreotype is eventually proved to be Dickinson, Amherst believes it will "change our idea" of the poet, showing her "as a mature woman showing striking presence, strength, and serenity", rather than as a teenager.

"She (whoever she is) seems to be the one in charge here, the one who decided that on a certain day in a certain year, she and her friend would have their likenesses preserved. In fact, even if this photograph is not of Dickinson and Turner, it has still been of use in forcing us to imagine Dickinson as an adult, past the age of the ethereal-looking 16-year-old we have known for so many years," the college added.
What a load of unrestrained horseshit.

"Oooh, thanks to this new photograph of 28yo Emily, we have learned So... Much... !!! We used to all think of her as some stoner teenager, but now - imagine! - it seems that later in her life she might have been in her 20's!!!Eleventy!DISSERTATION GOLD!"

"(and, even if it's a total fake, we still LEARNED SO MUCH FROM IT! The Catholic Church has their fake Shroud of Turin; we'll have a fake Emily picture!!!)"
posted by IAmBroom at 1:51 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


> That said, the docents at her museum bore a reverence toward her that verged on worship. I've toured many authors' homes; rarely have I seen the level of ardor I saw displayed there.

She's probably the greatest poet America has produced; what "level of ardor" would you consider appropriate? I've taken the house tour twice, and found both docents properly appreciative of Dickinson and her life and works; I hope to god they don't find it necessary to hire a snarky young guide to satisfy Kids Today.

Thanks for the post; I'm inherently skeptical of new-found photographs of the famous, but this does look plausible.
posted by languagehat at 2:20 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


You have to hand it to Massachusetts, they are surprisingly genuine about their history, be it literary or political.
posted by maryr at 2:22 PM on September 5, 2012


It would be pretty exciting if this were truly a new photo of her, but the more I compare it to the first photo, the more these appear to be two completely different people. Even accounting for the aging process and possible distortions caused by slight movements during long exposures, the respective shapes of the nose and mouth and the different proportions in the nose/mouth/chin areas seem to be especially irreconcilable.
posted by newmoistness at 2:41 PM on September 5, 2012


Gorgeous.
posted by bardic at 6:44 PM on September 5, 2012


I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us; you know!

How dreary to be somebody!
How public like a frog
To tell one's name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
posted by bardic at 6:46 PM on September 5, 2012 [3 favorites]


That said, the docents at her museum bore a reverence toward her that verged on worship. I've toured many authors' homes; rarely have I seen the level of ardor I saw displayed there.

I've heard a couple of Dickinson scholars/librarians joke mildly about the intense feelings of her hardcore fan following.
posted by Miko at 8:42 PM on September 5, 2012


the different proportions in the nose/mouth/chin areas seem to be especially irreconcilable.

The chin is what I'd ask a forensic anthropologist about, were I lucky enough to be friends with one. The woman's chin in the new daguerreotype appears quite a bit stronger and more prominent than ED's in the authenticated image. The chin in the Gura portrait looks more consistent, but there the jaw looks wider. It's interesting, comparing the three, I can just about see one or the other of the more recent finds being authentic, but not both.
posted by torticat at 9:29 PM on September 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Here's another version of that photo.

Go on, you know Em had a wild streak.
posted by stormpooper at 6:53 AM on September 6, 2012


I messed around with the two photos in Gimp. Here's a JPG showing the new photo transparently overlaid on the known photo. Here's the Gimp file; it's interesting to play with the transparency slider on the top lair.

The eyes are pretty much identical. The noses and bone structure of the faces are very similar. The shape of the lips (lower lips especially) are slightly different, but that may be down to expression. The biggest dissimilarity is the length of the neck: quite long in the known photo, but average or slightly short in the new photo. The difference might be due to pose and a decade of added body mass/maturation.

I'd say there's a better than even chance the two photos depict the same person, based solely on a visual comparison of the two. If the circumstances (place of discovery, age of photo, etc.) are consistent... well... I'd surprised if two such similar people lived in Amherst during the same period who were not identical twins.
posted by paulg at 10:14 AM on September 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't have a lot of reason to doubt it; I agree with languagehat that it's been through a lot of expert vetting already, and corroborates with all the known evidence. And the faces are so similar that it strains belief that they'd be a different person. The eyes and brow line are both pure Emily. The main difference I see is in the chin, but I think it can be explained by chin thrust. in the early picture, the chin is more thrust forward, creating that shadow that gives it extra definition; in the second one, her head is centered over her shoulders, and the flesh of the neck looks to be blending with the line of the chin.

I also spent some time thinking about how people didn't routinely get their wisdom teeth pulled in Emily's time, and how once they come in, you might hold your jawline a bit lower to accommodate those teeth in the far back of the mouth. But I'm really going out on a limb there.
posted by Miko at 1:21 PM on September 6, 2012


Thanks for the overlay,paulg.

I think the new one looks remarkably like the first authenticated picture. The chin difference really could be from age-I know my chin,unfortunately, changed from teens to adulthood. As a big time Dickinson fan I am very excited about the new find.


A Charm invests a face
Imperfectly beheld—
The Lady date not lift her Veil
For fear it be dispelled—

But peers beyond her mesh—
And wishes—and denies—
Lest Interview—annul a want
That Image—satisfies—
posted by Isadorady at 11:41 PM on September 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


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