Photograph: "Mrs. Barnum at home [Marina]"
Date manufactured/created1889 – 1890
DescriptionPortrait photograph from about 1889 - 1890, showing Nancy Fish Barnum in the home she shared with husband P. T. Barnum, Marina, located in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This photograph is one in a set of large-format photographs by Farini Photographs, a studio that was located at 61 Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport, Connecticut. This is the single portrait in a set that otherwise features only interior and exterior views of Marina.
The image is carefully composed, showing Nancy Barnum seated and holding a book in her lap, with items that are presumed to be her favorites around her, as they appear in other images as well. The tall Japanese vase in particular appears in several other photographs, as does the banjo, which has her engraved initials and the date 1888 on it. (Both are now in the collection of the Barnum Museum.) At the time of this photograph, Nancy would have been 39 or 40 years old. She is wearing a fashionable type of at-home dress called a tea gown, which was slightly more relaxed in fit than most Victorian gowns, though far from loose-fitting. Tea gowns were often pleated, and trimmed with silk ribbons and chiffon as hers appears to be. Next to Nancy is a small table, French or in the French style, set with her silver and porcelain china tea service. Behind her is a folding screen with three graduated panels, the tallest two having beveled glass inserts at the tops. Nancy's feet are resting on a cushion or folded quilt, on which one can see embroidered spider webs and a flower or bow. The photograph offers a good view of the home's impressive parquet floor, featuring a busy geometric pattern of light and dark woods.
The reverse side of the photograph's paperboard mount is black save for the photographer's imprint in gold. The photograph has its original off white envelope on which is printed with "No., Name, Remarks" and blank spaces to be filled in. This envelope is for photograph No. 2, which is described in the Remarks area as "Mrs. Barnum at her home."
Marina was designed in an eclectic Queen Anne style by architects Longstaff and Hurd of Bridgeport, Connecticut. It was built in 1889 next to the Barnum family's 1869 mansion Waldemere, in the area of Seaside Park, facing Long Island Sound. When the new home was completed, Waldemere was taken down. Barnum built Marina specifically for his much younger second wife, Nancy, knowing she would outlive him and would want a more modern, easier-to-maintain home than Waldemere. Presumably it was she who hired Farini to take the photographs so that she could show off the new home to her family and friends at home in England.
Probably some years after the death of P. T. Barnum, when Nancy had remarried, she gave these photographs to the Joshua Cunliffe family, friends of hers who lived in England. The set later came into the possession of another person, and was subsequently obtained by an antiques dealer in Blackford Bridge, Bury, Lancashire, England. The photographs came to the attention of Barnum Museum Curator Kenneth B. Holmes, who purchased them on behalf of the museum. An article about the initial discovery of the photographs was published in the Bridgeport Sunday Post on January 24, 1971.
Measurement Types: Item (Overall)
Accession/ID number1970.006.003 CD