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Shanghai, China: a woman wearing a velvet snood. Photograph by John Thomson, 1869.

  • Thomson, J. (John), 1837-1921
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About this work


A middle-aged woman of Shanghai, wearing earrings and a black velvet snood with her hair encased inside: half-length portrait. According to Thomson this way of wearing hair was very fashionable among women in Shanghai at the time of his visit. For him this simple style was 'quaint' and 'remarkable', yet he was perhaps unaware of its symbolic value for fashionable Shanghainese. Velvet was a relatively modern fabric, one probably first brought into China from Central Asia. Even in the second half of the 19th century it was regarded as a foreign luxury. During the time of Thomson’s visit, Shanghai was beginning to emerge as a modern cosmopolitan city. A large number of its population, mostly migrants from nearby regions, aspired to everything foreign, which was a synonym for 'modern' and 'superior'. It was not surprising that this simple-looking snood was in vogue in Shanghai



Physical description

1 photograph : glass photonegative, wet collodion


Amoy woman


This is one of a collection of original glass negatives made by John Thomson. The negatives, made between 1868 and 1872, were purchased from Thomson by Sir Henry Wellcome in 1921

References note

John Thomson, Illustrations of China and its people, London, 1873-4, vol 2, pl. X, fig. 31, "Shanghai woman 1869"
China through the lens of John Thomson, 1868-1872, Beijing: Beijing World Art Museum, 2009, p. 79 (reproduced)

Lettering note

Bears Thomson's negative number: "747"


Wellcome Library no. 19750i


  • English

Where to find it

  • LocationStatusAccess
    Closed stores
    By appointmentManual request


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