Little Butterfly

Little Butterfly

Taken in 1901,  Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. photographed model and showgirl Evelyn Nesbit (1884-1967) when she was sixteen years old, the same year she arrived with her mother to New York City.  Although titled Little Butterfly in the plate, it is more popularly known as In my Studio or Tired Butterfly, a more refined version Eickemeyer completed in 1902. In the fine 1986 exhibition catalogue by author Mary Panzer: In My Studio: Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. and the Art of the Camera 1885-1930, we learn the specifics for this photograph:

Stanford White arranged for his mistress Evelyn Nesbit to pose for Eickemeyer at the home of White’s client Henry Poor. Voted best picture of 1902 by members of The Camera Club of New York, this became the photographer’s best known work.  (p. 40)

The accompanying catalogue photograph is signed with Eickemeyer’s stylized monogram in the lower right hand corner as well as the date 1902. In the exhibition carbon print, used on the cover of the catalogue, the foreground and background of this genre study have been “burned” down, revealing the lone elements of Nesbit herself as well as the large polar bear rug she “sleeps” on.  At the time this photograph was taken, Eickemeyer was the manager for the Alfred S. Campbell Art Company, based in Elizabeth, New Jersey. An advertisement for the firms’ New York studio in December, 1899 stated:

At our Portrait Studio, 564-568 Fifth Ave., New York, under the management of Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr., formerly of the Carbon Studio, we are prepared to make artistic portraits in Art-Relievo, Carbon, Platinum, Water-Color, Oils, etc.  (1.)

Nesbit was famous for her looks but certainly more infamous in the public eye after her entanglement in the 1906 murder of her ex-lover, famed architect Stanford White by her first husband Harry Thaw. Be it beauty, notoriety, or good business, the Alfred Campbell company would publish many other views of Nesbit along with the polar bear rug taken during the 1901 sitting.  In these as well as other views of her taken presumably by Eickemeyer, the subtitle on the cards state: Posed by Evelyn Nesbit. The postcards themselves are often found printed in colors. In the 1901 Little Butterfly and Ready for Mischief cards, her kimono is red with yellow flowers. Although not believed to be entirely comprehensive, the following 9 postcards published  by the Campbell Art company have been noted from examples seen on the web while preparing background for this posting:

Title: Little Butterfly: 1901

Description: Nesbit “sleeps” on polar bear rug.

note: another later version of this view published as Madame Butterfly by Reinthal & Newman publishers of New York.

Title: Ready for Mischief: 1901

Description: Nesbit sits up on the same polar bear rug and smiles directly into the camera.

Title: Beauty and the Beast: 1902

Description: a close-up shows Nesbit with her chin resting on the the same polar bear rug facing the same direction as the bear.

Title: The Debutante: 1902

Description: three-quarter length view of Nesbit looking directly into camera.

Title: The Tiger-Head : 1902

Description: wearing a white dress, Nesbit leans her right elbow on a close-up of a tiger’s head.

Title: Dawn

Description: portrait of Nesbit who wears a white shawl that partly covers her head. Background tinted yellow to match two yellow carnation flowers arranged in her hair.

Title: Unknown: Posed by Evelyn Nesbit

Description: Nesbit, wearing a yellow kimono, squats behind the same polar bear head (rug) in which a small kimono-clad doll rests up against the head of the polar bear.

Title: The Mikado’s Pride

Description: a three-quarters length view of Nesbit wearing the same yellow kimono and looking directly into the camera.

Title: Unknown: Posed by Evelyn Nesbit

Description: a side, three-quarters length view of Nesbit wearing a body-fitting red cape.

This hand-pulled photogravure titled within lower plate impression:

Little Butterfly


center credit along upper margin of image:

Copyright, 1901, by the AS. Campbell Art Co.

Original copy for this entry posted to Facebook on April 15, 2012:

When she arrived in New York City along with her mother from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1901, the subject of this photograph “Little Butterfly”, Evelyn Nesbit, was a mere sixteen years old. But the beautiful Nesbit was a precursor for the modern world of fashion standards, just the right age to get the looks of artists and photographers intent on capturing a rare beauty. Two New York based photographers, Gertrude Käsebier and Rudolf Eickemeyer, Jr. quickly immortalized her: Eickemeyer with this depiction taken in 1901and Käsebier a year later with her “Portrait (Miss N.)”- an image well known to collectors as the girl holding a small pitcher and published in the first issue of Camera Work. Eickemeyer, working in the Manhattan portrait studio owned by the Alfred S. Campbell Art Company, ended up taking at least eight other views of Evelyn turned into postcards by the company-works that only grew more popular after the Thaw murder of Stanford White took over the front pages in 1906.


1. advertisement: Educational and Art Publishers: in: The American Monthly Review of Reviews: The Review of Reviews Co.: New York: December, 1899: p. 61

Little Butterfly

Image Dimensions10.5 x 13.7 cm February