Portrait of the Duncan Sisters

Portrait of the Duncan Sisters
Collection Number: 
Current Location: 
Storage Room 303
Lower Level/Vault
Object Description
Artist Dates: 
1884 -1982
Artist Nationality: 
Object Type: 
A sepia-toned photograph of performers Rosetta and Vivian Duncan.
 - Glass
25 inches
1 inch
31 inches

The Duncan Sisters were American actresses and motion picture figures of the 1920s. They were 12 and 14 when they entered vaudeville in 1914. They performed, as the Duncan Sisters, and were noted for their radio personas, “Topsy and Eva”. Later Rosetta and Vivian would find greater success, as a stage duo, with the act “Topsy and Eva”. Rosetta played the part of Topsy. In a contemporary context, this character is viewed as an insensitive role, as the persona was portrayed in blackface. Her older sister Vivian played the more subdued and innocent Eva. Rosetta accentuated her role with enthusiasm and skill, whereas Vivian would employ a comedic innocence, appearing bashful yet aggressively coy. "Topsy and Eva", the silent film, was released in 1927. The Duncan Sisters would go on to a sound production, when they starred in the film "It's a Great Life...". The Duncan Sisters have been called one of the greatest sister acts of all time. By the late twenties, the Duncan's were receiving $7500 plus half the gate for over twenty five grand per week. In this image, they are photographed in three-quarter pose, in 1920's long-sleeved attire. Vivian is situated on the left of the portrait, wearing a dark colored top. Hixon's studio lighting glints off her wavy locks and long beaded necklace. Rosetta garbed in lighter apparel, is positioned to the left and leans slightly into her sister. Vivian's cheek affectionately rests on Rosetta's head. Both sisters gaze demurely at the photographer, and ultimately, us.

Reproduce the Work in Library publications/publicity, including film or videotape: 
Make slides or videotapes for educational use: 
Permit the general public to photograph the work :