Please help me — I can’t make sense of this bizarre 19th century photograph! It depicts a man tenderly cradling a baby doll, feeding it something from a little dish that sits on the table next to him (see un-cropped version below). Why does this photograph exist?
The photograph was made sometime between 1864 and 1866, dated from a tax revenue stamp on the back. It has been hand-coloured, to giving the doll’s dress and man’s cheek a pink glow.
Here are some of the best theories that my friends came up with, after I posted the image to Instagram:
- The man’s kid died and he snapped and now believes the doll contains the spirit of his dead child
- The photograph was made by a loving family humoring an odd brother who loves this doll belonging to his dead sister
- Haunted doll whispers demands for food in the man’s ear
- The man is demonstrating how to feed a small child
- It depicts a doll that’s supposed to be treated like a living thing to bring luck and prosperity, like a Luk Thep doll
- A playful photograph made for the man’s daughter before he departs on an extended voyage
- A subject study of a man with some sort of mental illness
Which theory do you think is most plausible? Or do you have a more interesting theory that explains this bizarre photograph?
Found via Family Tree Magazine.
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