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Unknown Photographer
Portrait of four women

France, c. 1850
Daguerreotype, 1/1 plate, in double-elliptical mat and original frame

The family portrait in “full plate” is not only framed in a magnificent stucco frame, but also is of outstanding quality. The composition is rich in contrast and clear-cut. The absolute neutrality of the image space is striking and gives the daguerreotype a modern touch. There are no props, curtains, studio furniture or painted studio backdrops involved.

Four members of a family, most probably a mother with her three daughters, are compactly grouped in front of a neutral background. The notion of uniformity is enhanced by the similar style of clothing the women are wearing. As all portrayed are wearing black it can be assumed that it was a portrait taken in mourning. Maybe the husband or father of the family recently died and the women wanted to have their portrait taken after the funeral. In the mid 19th century portraits of people in mourning or post mortem depictions, in which also the dead relative was featured, were quite common.

The elaborate stucco frame stands in strong contrast to the modern composition of the image. These frames were very popular at the time and well known through painted portraits. Especially full plate daguerreotypes were framed and hung on the wall, whereas quarter and sixth plates would usually be kept in small collapsible cases.

Anna Zimm, © WestLicht