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E. B. Mowll

The portrait is striking in its sophistication and import

Gael Newton AM

Part of series on works from our collections that have been re-homed and some favourites that will stay with me


I recently pulled a portrait by E B Mowll 38 Manchester Road Burnley out of the Australian cartes de visite folder as I had checked and it was not Burnley, Victoria but Burnley, Lancashire.

The photographer EB Mowll was at that address in 1880.

The portrait is striking in its sophistication and import. It shows an attractive young woman shown in a three-quarter profile looking away from the camera with light boldly falling on the left side of her face – the right in shadow but with detail.

She has a composed but relaxed expression. Her hair appears is off her face braided to the back of her head in a chignon.

She wears neat stud earrings and her military style dark close-fitting buttoned jacket has a stiff white shirt collar enclosing her neck. A brooch with a U shape and running deer is at her throat.

She wears a neat bowler hat with a small sprig on the right side.

I have been trying to find out more about the dress reforms of the late nineteenth century that saw a mannish simplified jacket shirt and long skirt become fashionable. The inspiration had possibly come from women’s riding outfits.

Perhaps she is a member of an organisation.

The Salvation army women’s para-military uniform was also established in the 1880s. The portrait speaks of a very deliberate choice of personal appearance and also bold style of portraiture.

Not everyone expects to go in for a portrait for a semi shaded three quarter profile she is not it seems there to catch your eye but has her own path.

I won’t be parting with this one.


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