This carte-de-visite photo has no information on it about who took it or where. I found it in Massachusetts, but assume it must have originated in Europe. In the 1860s and 1870s, European photographers began employing young people from their communities to dress in national costumes and pose against studio backdrops designed to represent local cultures. Prints of these photos would then be sold at the studio, along with other types of “genre scenes.” Women were hired as models more often than men, and they almost always remained anonymous.
I’ve had this photo for several years. A few days ago I was listening to Auld Lang Syne, and the photo popped into my head. Could the scene have been meant to represent two women celebrating the New Year? The tartan costume of the young lady on the right could be meant to suggest the classic Scottish song. The costume of the young lady on the left seems somewhat less distinctive and more universal. Another clue may be that the two women are holding hands. According to the entry for Auld Lang Syne in Encyclopedia Britannica, it’s customary for celebrants at a Scottish Hogmanay (New Year’s celebration) to sing the song while standing in a circle and holding hands. I wonder if that’s still true.
For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
Happy New Year!