Perhaps this lovely woman was preparing to sit for James Whistler, who perhaps more than any other American painter helped to advance the "Japonisme" craze in the U.S. in the late 19th century, following its popularity first in Paris after the reopening of trade of Japan in 1858. This wonderful cyanotype does invite filling in a backstory, as our subject looks not entirely ready or eager to have have her photograph taken, and one might guess that the whole ensemble, including folding screen behind her, was a borrowed costume at a photographer's studio. In addition to her face and the fall of the light, I really love the door included in the frame to her right.
The cyanotype process — from the Greek cyan, or “dark-blue impression” — was invented around 1842 by the British astronomer and chemist John Frederick Herschel (1792–1871). Making a cyanotype photograph involves placing a photo negative on treated paper, brushing it with an iron-based solution, and then placing the paper under ultraviolet light, or in direct sun, to develop.
3 3/4" x 4 3/4" on lightweight paper and in very good condition.