Monday, August 16, 2010

Rebecca Harding Davis: Lost and Found in Family Pictures

The picture on the right is Rebecca Harding Davis. Is the picture on the left the same woman?
(Click to enlarge image)

Recently the pictures above came to light in the collection of an older family member (who scanned them), and we're trying to identify the woman on the left.

We know that the picture on the right is American writer Rebecca Harding Davis (my great grandmother's sister) -- or certainly identified as such, since it appears on the covers of at least two books and elsewhere.

One friend says, "I do see a resemblance, a strong one, in the curls, shape of head, and the facial configuration right below the lower lip."

That would be my impression as well. What do you think, dear reader? Is there a science to this kind of informed guessing? Are there people who specialize in it?

If scholars have seen this picture before, I would be very interested to hear.

The originals are in Connecticut and I'll be there in late October (after my reading with Jerome Sala at the Poetry Project in New York on the 27th). I will of course be eager to examine them, looking for clues of any kind. There are, apparently, others of interest, including a group photo taken (according to writing on the back, or so I'm told) by L. Clarke Davis, Rebecca's husband.

But these, and some intriguing others, are unidentified. Lesson: label your pictures immediately (she said to herself).

One thing that's beyond eerie for me is the arresting resemblance between the well-known picture and my own mother. That could be Cynthia, as easily as Rebecca, looking out at us from some strange remove.