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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    studiolymar wrote on Jul 17
    Beautifull portraits, tnx for sharing

© David S. Shields

The Beauty Brigade-Sarony Studio 1898-1908    Jul 17, '12 8:16 AM
by David for group historicalziegfeld #651

One of the mysteries of theatre photo history is how Sarony Studio managed to remain a central player in the world of publicity imagery after the death of Napoleon Sarony in 1896 and the brief dominion of his son Otto Sarony, who sold the studio to Jonathan F. Burrow in 1898. How did Burrow manage to keep the business from bleeding to Sarony's already famous and established competitors B. J. Falk, Jacob Schloss, Aime Dupont, and Theodore Marceau. The images below suggest the answer.

Burrow became a specialist in female beauty portraiture--not simply the scopaphilic eye candy that had stage door Johnnies drooling--but superlative visions that women themselves cherished. Here par excellence is the body of imagery in which the ideal observer was another woman wishing to view that emerging creature of power in the 1890s--the Girl--whether it be the Gibson Girl--the Girl of the Golden West--the Show Girl--or the Girl on the Flying Trapeze. Burrow sought out the most striking of the patrician young women of the stage and society. Some would become stars, others artists models whose faces and bodies would become monumentalized in the civic sculpture of the Gilded Age.

The Burrow images are interesting because the personalities conveyed in the images--with the possible exceptions of the Bessie Clayton and Lola Gordon shots--all entail an element of interiority--mood, intelligence, spirituality. Whether in costume, drapes, or modern dress, the poise, distinctiveness, and attitude of the sitter is graphically projected. Most of the images led dual lives, sent to magazine editors as illustrations, and issued for direct sale to the public as cabinet cards. Sarony Studio of all the major studios was the one that retained the format of the cardboard back image longest.

Beauty was sufficiently bankable to keep this one sub genre of image viable in the marketplace, resisting the rising tide of souvenir postcards of celebrities. The cabinet card offered a clearer, larger image, and one always wishes a better view of what is beautiful.

Jonathan Burrow in 1906 turned Sarony Studio over to Ernest M. Burrow, who operated it until 1922. In 1922 Edwin Mersereau took control of the business, and it ceased being an important source of theatrical imagery as it concentrated on institutional portraiture.

We don't know whether Jonathan Burrow or Ernest Burrow was the cameraman for these images. Benjamin Richardson, Sarony's chief operator, retired in 1898 when the Burrows took over. David S. Shields

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