The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things

Bizarre picture of a man feeding a doll

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.


If you like strange photographs and other curiosities like this, subscribe to The Museum of Ridiculously Interesting Things below, or follow me on Instagram or Facebook to make your life a little bit weirder.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

6 comments

  1. charmander09

    Or maybe his photographer friend said, “Hey Charles, I need somone to practice my photography skills on. Sit in this chair. I have a bunch of props, such as this weird doll. Do whatever you want.”

  2. Charmander

    Or maybe his friend, a budding photographer, said “Hey Fred, I need to practice my photography skills today. Can you just sit in this chair? I have some props, like this weird doll. Do whatever you want.”

  3. Mrs Marvel

    I am of the opinion it may be a symbolic photo. His child may have died and he is feeding her through the doll. There were ghost images and other images that seem odd to us but were special to our predecessors in some way.

  4. Mrs Marvel

    So my opinion is this might fall in the very real category of memento mori type images, such as ghost images. The mans child may have died and he is symbolically feeding her through the doll.
    PS happy to see you posting again!

  5. The CDV is mounted behind a cheap, and likely regarded as feminine, mount; the image itself, while sharp enough, is flatly lit, and the coloring on the albumin emulsion is rather hastily and amateurishly done. The man appears to be of a class such that he could afford to drop a decent amount of change on a CDV, but did not spend enough to get a top-notch photographer or more elegant mount. I would suggest that the theory that this is for his daughter – perhaps preceding a separation (he could have, for example, been a businessman who had to take a coach or the transcontinental railroad for business). If this is the case, then it is probably his daughter’s doll in frame.
    His well-groomed appearance and ability to sit still for 1+ seconds suggests that he’s no mental patient – I know rather a lot about 19th century psychiatry, and he does not look like, as it were, a “lunatic”.
    In any case, I think it’s safe to say he was a member of the bourgeois class, and was having a bit of sport here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s