When first presented to the public in 1839, daguerreotypes—one-of-a-kind photographs on highly polished, silver-plated sheets of copper—were thought to be impractical for portraiture. Improvements to the process soon shortened exposure times, however, and all but a few of the many millions of daguerreotypes produced in the 1840s and 1850s showed the faces of men and women of all stripes. In America, daguerreotypes were most often presented in leather (or later, thermoplastic) cases, just as painted portrait miniatures had been a generation earlier. Although it is now impossible to identify the artist or sitter for many, if not most, surviving daguerreotypes, the miraculous precision of this first photographic process, the artistry with which the best daguerreotypists composed their scenes, and the expressive qualities of the sitters all make these mirrorlike portraits compelling nonetheless.


Cataloguing data may change with further research.

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Artist
American
Title
[Portrait of a Woman]
Date
c. 1855
Medium
Daguerreotype
Dimensions
Overall: 4 3/4 × 3 7/8 × 3/4 in. (12.1 × 9.8 × 1.9 cm)
Credit Line

The Sonia Marvins Collection, gift of Sonia Marvins

Current Location
Not on view
Accession Number
2003.516
Classification
Photographs
Provenance

Sonia Marvins, Houston; given to MFAH, 2003.