My publisher loves babies. Not necessarily to raise, but in the books. Apparently readers have written in gushing over how much they love babies too. So, my June book features 10-month old triplets (as you can see), my September book includes a serious 4-month-old, and my December book has a cheery 6-month-old among the cast. And I am in the enviable position of having to look up 19th century baby pictures to show the cover artists. In doing so, however, I learned that there’s often someone else hiding in the pictures.
These so-called “hidden mother” pictures appear to be fairly common. Even Harper’s Bazar teased at the process in its early May 1888 issue, although Father gets the honor in this one.
The idea was simple. A family wanted a photograph of their little darling, but said darling was a bit too young, or too roly-poly, to sit still for a portrait, particularly with the long exposure times needed back then. So, someone had to hold the baby in place.
Now, you would think that Mother could be in the photo too, but apparently not. Mothers had to be present, but not seen. Here are some examples.
This one isn’t too bad. Mother's just offstage. But why not let her be onstage?
You can see most of Mother in this one. Why not show her face?
This is a little more severe. Can you spot the baby’s mother? Look at the floor, and you’ll see her skirts and shoes. Otherwise, she appears little more than part of the furniture.
Now, I will admit, when we had the first professional photographs taken of our oldest son, he tipped backward right off the stand! Luckily, he did a flip on the way down and landed on his well-padded posterior. But I can understand the need to make sure your baby was safe.
Still, to pose as furniture? I’m not certain I’d be willing to do it. How about you?