This enigmatic portrait was made by career photographer Stephen H. Waite (1836-1906). My eyes were first drawn to the large brush in the woman’s hand, then quickly moved to the striking brooch which may have served to clasp her beautiful coat. Another fine garment is draped over the chair, possibly a cloak.
Was she an artist? Could the brush have served another purpose?
It may be irrelevant to the discussion, but I should mention that I bought the cabinet card from a dealer in England. The young woman could have given it to a British friend, or could even have been from Britain herself. That said, it’s entirely possible that the photo was purchased by a collector in Britain sometime in the past 115+ years and that I simply repatriated it.
Emporia is home to Emporia State University, established in 1863 as the Kansas State Normal School. According to a page at Emporia State University Special Collections and Archives, Stephen H. Waite (1836-1906) worked as a professional photographer in that town for 21 years, retiring about 1902.