Andries Hendrik Potgieter (1792 - 1852) - Foto

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WikiTree profile: Andries Potgieter
in Photos by Esmé van der Westhuizen G2G6 Mach 9 (92.5k points)
recategorized by Jillaine Smith

See this article ''The mystery of the photo of the commandant-general'' by Anton van Zyl (02 February 2019)]: […]''On the Wikitree site, further information can be found relating to the photo. Here the statement is made that the woman in the photo is probably not Elizabeth Helena Botha (who died in 1841). The date that the photo was taken is estimated as 1851 and the origin of the photo is mentioned to be the Boer War Museum in Bloemfontein. The photo was apparently taken in Delagoa Bay.'' […] ''If the year 1846 is used as a starting point for photography in South Africa, the woman in the photo can be either Catherina Elizabeth Jacobs or Susanna Maria Duvenage. If the photo was taken in Delagoa Bay, Duvenage (Van Emmenes) may be excluded, because at that stage Potgieter was already very ill and would not have been able to travel that far.'' Thanks to Esmé Pieterse for spotting this article. I'll personally alert an expert - Carol Hardijzer - on 19th century South African photography and ask his opinion on the matter.

Carol Hardijzer, the South African photo historian (with particular interest in South African photographs from prior to 1915) replied as follows: ''With regard to the Potgieter photograph – The photograph is highly unlikely to be that of the Voortrekker leader Potgieter, based on the following reasons:

  • The images is clearly a portrait image pasted on a piece of carton (a format known as Carte-de-Visite); 
  • During 1851, the Carte-de-Visite photographic process was still no patented. This format was only patented in France during 1854 and would only have been in use in South Africa from very late 1850’s onwards (which then clearly would put the image under discussion out of range);
  • The photographic format in use between from the 1840s until early 1860s would have been the daguerreotypes and ambrotypes (Images on glass placed in beautifully designed cases). It is highly improbable that the image under discussion would have been reproduced from a glass format photograph into a paper format version.

Considering that Potgieter passed away during 1852, it is therefore my suggestion that it is improbable that the image under discussion is of the Voortrekker leader Potgieter. The image would date from around 1865 in my view  – It may however also be of a Potgieter. Happy to discuss further. I take the liberty of attaching one of my articles (on the carte-de-visite format) recently published on our local theheritageportal.co.za : http://www.theheritageportal.co.za/article/south-african-cartomania-photographic-phenomenon"

Anton van Zyl, the author of the article in Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror, replied as follows: "I primarily write for a local audience and the stories are earmarked for a community newspaper circulating in the Soutpansberg district, so it always needs to have a local angle. I tried to present it as a “history mystery”, not giving the answer straight away. In the second article I described the various processes used, relying on Dr Bensusan’s research. The last article in the series is an effort to trace Potgieter’s whereabouts during the last seven years of his life, to check whether he perhaps visited Delagoa Bay where a photographer may have been present. The links to the articles are:

  1. https://www.zoutpansberger.co.za/articles/news/49192/2019-02-02/the-mystery-of-the-photo-of-the-commandant-general
  2. https://www.zoutpansberger.co.za/articles/news/49270/2019-02-11/did-an-early-photographer-capture-boer-leaders-alikenessa
  3. https://www.zoutpansberger.co.za/articles/news/49306/2019-02-15/could-the-commandant-have-posed-for-a-photo-

To me the articles were very enjoyable (to write), because it actually combined two of my passions – photography and history. I am not an expert in any of these fields, just a very curious explorer. I have a large selection of antique cameras, dating back to the early 1890s. I try to use the old field cameras as well and for the past few years I have experimented with the wet plate collodion process. Attempting to take photos with such processes gives you a further appreciation for how knowledgeable and skilful these photographers were. My conclusion at the end of the series was that in theory it is possible that the commandant-general posed for a photo, but it is extremely unlikely. Thanks for your letter."

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