Daguerreotype, applied color, sixth-plate
Image: 8.3 x 7 cm (3 1/4 x 2 3/4 in.); Case: 9.2 x 8.1 x 1.6 cm (3 5/8 x 3 3/16 x 5/8 in.); Matted: 61 x 50.8 cm (24 x 20 in.)
John L. Severance Fund 2002.31
Some of the most inventive and technically skilled practitioners in the early history of photography are as yet unidentified. However, with time more of these individuals will probably be recognized by name. Introduced into America soon after its invention in 1839 by the Frenchman Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, the daguerreotype flourished from 1840 to the mid-1860s. This beautiful daguerreotype in its original case is an outstanding example of a very popular subject: mother and child. The polished silver plate precisely renders in warm tones the likeness of the elaborately dressed sitters. The mother gently steadied the child's head so that it would not move during the long exposure required by the daguerreotype process. Clearly, the maker's knowledge of chemistry and traditional principles of design were necessary for this charming portrait.
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