Carte de Visite
Victorian Albums






13 December 1853
Middelburg, Netherlands
Hendrik Hermanus Roelse
Maria Sara Eggel
Wall frame



"Portret van Maria Sara Eggel, huisvrouw van Hubertus Corlje, den 13 Dezember 1853 door H. H. Roelse te Middelburg, zijnde toen 26 jaar oud."



It’s December 13th 1853 when Maria heads out into the biting cold. It’s minus 3,6 degrees Celsius but that doesn’t stop her. She’s on a mission.

It’s been a good year for her. In February she got married to Hubertus Corlje when she had been two months pregnant with her now three month old daughter. Johanna Maria, named after her grandmother who died 13 years ago, when  Maria had been 13 herself. She’s given up her job as a maid and has moved into her own home in Middelburg, the city she grew up in.

Her husband’s not from here, but he was a baby when his family left ’s Hertogenbosch behind. He’s 10 years older than her and a sickly man, but she likes his brown hair and brown eyes, trades his father had too.

It also helps that he’s a baker.

Maria was born with the smell of bread in her nose. She spend her entire childhood living over the bakery where her father worked, and now lives at the other end of the same street, right by the water.

The year she was born was the year that Hub lost his Irish mother. Father had died 5 years earlier, leaving him and his only sister Dorea as orphans. The two were seperated. He’s only 10 when he’s send to the place all orphans go in that time, Veenhuizen. Famed now for long being the home of beggars, criminals, and outcasts, all put to hard work on meager meals. The orphans go to school, after which they must work as well.

Life there is tough, but it’s not long before he returns to Middelburg. Like his sister, he suffers from bile fever, but she has chest pains too and dies young, at only 25. It’s just him now, until he’s lucky enough to find Maria.

It’s for him that she’s gone out today. After only a five minute walk she stops outside Hendrik’s studio. It opened just last year, giving her the perfect idea for a birthday gift. Hub is 36 today, a stark difference from the 22 year old about to take her portrait.

He cracks a few jokes, sits her down and removes the lenscap from the large wooden camera in front of her. It only takes a few seconds and he’s done. He’s captured her forever, wearing her bonnet and her fine Zeeuwse jewelry, seated by the window letting in a few rays of light.

He jots down her details on the back of the ornate frame, and she leaves as a happy customer.

Photographer Hendrik Hermanus Roelse buys his silver salts, lead, nitric acid, and other chemicals locally, the chemist taking it all down in his books. It’ll be years before the man known for his jokes will get married and have a daughter of his own. He’ll die young, at only 40, leaving a four year old orphan behind.

Before then, he’ll take plenty more portraits on carte de visite and capture Middelburg in all its glory. In the early years, he writes down as much details as he can, something he eventually stops bothering with, when he gets his info printed on the back.

Nine years after recieving his gift from Maria, Hub dies at 44, but not before adding two sons to the family.

Maria’s story ends in 1878. Her 21 year old son dies in April. She follows 20 days later, 51 years old. Her second son goes on to have five children of his own, while her daughter Johanna will live to 95. She’ll name her first daughter, one of seven kids she’ll have, after her mother, just like Maria did with her.


(Better images will follow)

The bakery where Maria grew up in and most of her siblings were born.
"Het Wapen van Engeland" was, and still is, the name of the building.
(The Weapon of England)


Maria's home in 1853, on the same street as the bakery.




Hendrik Hermanus Roelse's studio


Hendrik Hermanus Roelse


Two daguerreotypes of bakeries by Roelse.
Was it through the bakeries that he got to know Maria, or was she the one who send him their way?
And are the men on the pictures perhaps related to her family of bakers?


Daguerreotype by Roelse in a similar frame to Maria's.





Daguerreotypes by Roelse and an example of the printed back Roelse later used.

"Daguerreotijpe Portretten. Familie Groepen, afbeeldingen van schilderijen, afbeeldingen van buitenplaatsen te nemen door redresseerglazen, miniatuur portretten in medaillons, ringen, broches, enz. Worden naar de volmaakste gelijkenis vervaardigd door H. H. Roelse, Zuidzijde van den Dam, te Middelburg."

English translation:
"Daguerreotype Portraits. Family groups, images of paintings, images of outdoors taken through repairing glass (?), miniature portraits in medaillons, rings, brooches, etc. Will be made to the best likeliness by H. H. Roelse, Southside of the Dam, in Middelburg."


Carte de Visite of the landbouwtentoonstelling in Middelburg.


Map of Middelburg
01-06 are where Maria's siblings were born
07-09 are where Maria's own children were born
02 and 04 are uncertain


Jacob Andreas Eggel

June 8th 1850 – April 7th 1851

That’s how long the voyage will take from Middelburg to Java and back. The mission is to transport coal. For 20 Guilder (250 Euro in 2021) Maria's brother Jacob joins the crew on the Commercie Compagnie as a sailor.

The captain's log on November 27th 1850 reads:

"Mooi weer. Wij terpenden het dek. Voor de middags 11.40 minuten de ligt matroos Jacob Eggel aan de dissenterie overleeden. Heeft ziek geweest 14 daage lang."

“Fine weather. We rubbed the deck. At 11.40 the sailor Jacob Eggel passed away from dysentery after 14 days of illness.”

He was 20 years old.