The Family Photo

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This portrait is in the municipal museum in Lippstadt, Germany. I keep meaning to share some of their collection with you and then get distracted and it doesn’t happen.

Last night though I was going through some old photos and came across this one of one of my wife’s ancestors. Back in the 18th century they didn’t have the ease of digital photography like they do today. If you were fortunate you had your portrait pained once in your life, and that was it; that was the image people would remember you by. I must admit, she doesn’t look very happy to me – the artist obviously forgot to tell her to smile.

This painting was put on display in early 2010, but I took the photo in July 2009, before the canvas had been restored, I think. My wife’s aunt wanted us to see it even if it wasn’t yet ready for public view. She felt we needed to learn about the family.

The museum was closed (I think it was a Sunday), but that didn’t matter. A quick call to the director and the place was opened for us. My wife’s aunt is a determined woman – I doubt anyone says no to her.

If I understand correctly, the woman in the portrait, Amalia Wilhelmine Henriette Elisabeth Epping is my wife’s great-great-great-great grandmother, born in 1769. She was married in 1793 and had 10 children, so you can imagine how many descendants there must be after more than 200 years.

As I consider the thousands of digital photographs I have taken in 2018 alone, I have to wonder of any of them will be preserved for posterity. Will my descendants two hundred years from now be looking at a selfie taken on my phone and wondering why great-great-great-great-grandfather wasn’t smiling? Or will technology have changed over time and the photos vanished with the passing years.

Maybe I need to find myself a portrait painter.

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Amalia Epping’s grave in the Lippstadt cemetary is topped by an urn with a glowing depiction of motherhood.

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3 comments

  1. Great thoughts… Amalia is also my ancestor – 5x g-grandmother, I stood by this painting in July when I visited Lippstadt. And yes, your wife’s aunt is amazing!

    1. It was her 95th birthday yesterday! Still riding her bike every day.

      1. Yes, awe inspiring! She showed my mother & I around the family sites – rode ahead on her bike! Hi from Australia!

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