Seeing Double, Double Vision, Double Exposures, Trick Photography, Special Effects

 William Morrison (active Chicago, 1875-1900)
"Isabelle Coe "
Albumen print cabinet card, circa 1892
Little has been published about Morrison, who produced a large number of theatrical portraits. Many of Morrison's photographs demonstrate creativity, but this image (and a few others) document his desire to innovate and take artistic chances.
Isabelle Coe is shown portraying the title character in the farce Niobe, a role she played on tour in 1892 and 1893. In mythology, Niobe is the Queen of Thebes, who turns to stone when her children are killed by an angry goddess. In the farce, a Victorian-era art collector obtains what he believes is a statue of Niobe. The statue, however, is the petrified Queen herself -- a fact revealed when she miraculously returns to life from an accidental jolt of household electricity.
The unusual lighting here is certainly intended to make Coe look like a marble statue, and the pose suggests the moment when Niobe returns to life. There is something haunting, and perhaps even a little disturbing about this photograph -- qualities that are consistent with the original ideas about doppelgangers.

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Thanks to Philip Sampson of Copenhagen, Denmark for information on Isabelle Coe and Niobe
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