This week’s Sepia Saturday prompt is a photograph of two people at a piano.

Here is a photograph of my great grandparents Helene née Peters (1889 – 1944) and her husband Emil Manock (1883 -1966).

Emil and Helene’s first child, also Helene, was born in 1909. The presence or absence of a child does not help much – the couple may have chosen to be photographed without their children.  If the photograph was taken in 1909, Helene was twenty and Emil was twenty-six years old.

Photographs are often dated by looking at the hairstyle and clothes. Helene’s hairstyle is a little less complicated than coiffures in photos from 1909 pictured in Lenore Frost’s book on Dating Family Photos 1850 – 1920.  It is more similar to pictures dating from 1914.  However since Lenore’s book is about Australian photographs it could be that Berlin fashions were a little ahead of Australia. The Photo Detective website based on British photographs, illustrates the Side Swirl Hairstyle as being a popular fashion for young women from about 1909 to 1914 and what is termed the Transitional hairstyle from about 1911. (“Edwardian – index.” Photo Detective. Geoff Caulton, 22 June 2010. Web. 06 Feb. 2014. <>. )

The clothes look as though they date from the Edwardian era. The high collar of the dress, a slim and high standing collar, is typical of the era. From 1905 apparently sleeves changed and the “fullness at the wrist disappeared, the width at the top increased and there was a return to the leg-of-mutton, full puffed and double-puffed sleeves of the 1890s.” We can’t see much detail of the skirt. (“Fashion In The Edwardian Era: Part I .” The Ladies Treasury of Costume and Fashion. Ladies Treasury, 19 Jan. 2013. Web. 07 Feb. 2014. <>.)

The photograph appears to have been taken at Emil and Helene’s flat, not in a studio.

Emil was an interior designer and antique dealer in Berlin.  When they first married Emil and Helene lived in Steglitz. Later, but before World War 2, his shop was in Budapester Straße and he lived in a flat upstairs, with the work rooms on the floors above.  This area including the shop and flat was bombed during the War.

My mother recalls her maternal grandparents living in Budapester Straße opposite the Zoo. This is an undated, but pre-war, image retrieved from “Budapester Straße Mit Zoo.” ALT – BERLIN., 6 Nov. 2010. Web. 6 Feb. 2014. <>.

My mother tells me that there was a grand piano in the flat in Budapester Straße.  She was too young to remember it being played.  Her mother, my grandmother and Emil and Helene’s daughter Charlotte, learned the piano for fourteen years but did not play once she stopped learning. Charlotte’s husband, Hans, spoke in later years of the enormous effort required when they decided to relocate the piano from the second floor to the first floor of the building.

Reference: Frost, Lenore Dating family photos 1850-1920. Lenore Frost, Essendon, Vic, 1991.