Morrison (active Chicago, 1875-1900)
print cabinet card, circa 1892
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.
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.
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.