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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

Mystery silhouette

My husband has an old photograph album which once belonged to the Viner branch of his family. We were thrilled to find in the first couple of pages, photographs which had been labelled and dated.

There were childhood photos of his great-grandmother, Catharine Louisa Viner and her sisters, Lilian and Florence, his great-great parents, Walter Banner Viner and Mary Ann Pagdin, and his 3x grandparents, Richard Mott Viner and Catherine Banner Evans.

Sadly, by the second page of the album, the photos hadn’t received the same diligent attention and apart from one or two, photographs in the remainder of the album remain unidentified.

One intriguing image on the opening page of the album is this silhouette. But who is it?

According to Jayne Shrimpton in her book, How to get the most from Family Pictures, silhouettes (known as ‘profile shades’) were popular from the end of the 18th century until the middle of the 19th, when the market declined due to cheaper portrait photography.

In "our" silhouette image, the face has been enhanced by the added the details of the sitter's bonnet, dress and collar, and the ‘curls’ of her fringe have been painted on afterwards in gold. I have no information as to its date.

There are a few clues which might help identify the sitter. On the back of the image is the name Viner, written in pencil, along with the cost, Pd 2/6 and in ink, the words, taken at 43. Is that at age 43? At house number 43?

If the 43 refers to an address, I might be able to match it to a place where the family lived. But other than The at the beginning of the line, I’m uncertain what it says after that. It's not helped by the fact that the card has been cut and words are lost at the end, but I'm inclined to think the latter part reads, Mrs Viner.

But what about the first part? Looking at it again, it looks strangely like an abbreviated form of, The Honourable. What? Really?

So, can you help? What do you think it says? All suggestions gratefully received!



Carolyn Retallick
Carolyn Retallick
Oct 23, 2021

Another intriguing mystery! When I first read it I though it said "The Four" but of course that makes no sense! The Hon would be more likely, but I did think that the first two letters of the second word were the same as the first "Th". But again it doesn't make sense. The archaic writing is a challenge for sure. If I get a lightbulb moment, I will return! 😄

Wendy Percival
Wendy Percival
Oct 23, 2021
Replying to

I’ve had some feedback from the Twitter fraternity and they’re definitely of the opinion it reads, “The Hon…ble Mrs Viner” - i.e. The Honourable Mrs Viner. So I’m fascinated now! Who could it refer to? A quick check on the tree has given me no clues so I’ll have to dig a bit deeper when I’ve got a bit more time. Intriguing, eh?

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