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Southworth & Hawes
Young Girl with Chair
Daguerreotype, full plate
8 1/2 x 6 1/2 ins (216 x 165 cm)
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
Gift of the Hall Family Foundation, Object number: 2017.44.18
Markings (Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art)
On plate verso, top, in black: "Daguerreotype by / Southworth + Hawes / Boston"; On seal on plate verso, top, in pencil: "Resealed 2016 / Borosilicate Glass - Mylar backing Filmoplast P"; On frame backing board, top, in black pen: "This daguerreotype of / a young girl with hands on / chair back belongs to Michael Isenburg / and is not part of the Matt Isenburg / collection. / Matthew R Isenburg"
Text (Contemporary Works / Vintage Works )
One of the most singular and well known Southworth & Hawes portraits. This portrait is of a young girl posed with a chair, her arms arranged to make full use of its architectural elements, the light artfully framing her face in profile, using an apparently unique (or certainly very rare) crescent moon vignette. The girl wears a lovely, and fashionable, white off-the-shoulders dress, made lovelier by a necklace and soft focus. Her hands and the turnings of the chair are held in sharp focus, attracting the eye to her delicate fingers, which balance the gentle intelligence of her face.
It is a truly masterful example of the merging of the painters' art with the photographers' technique. The image is very well fixed and visible clearly from a wide viewing angle, in comparison to some daguerreotypes that are difficult to view unless from a specific position, or appear faded or ghostly.
It was published in John Woods' 1989 book, "The Daguerreotype; A Sesquicentennial Celebration", and exhibited at the Getty Museum in L.A. at its initial exhibition in 1997, along with a curated selection of the Matt Isenburg collection. It was featured in the Yale exhibition of the Isenburg collection, as well as the Smithsonian NMAA 'Secrets of the Dark Chamber', where it was singled out for inclusion in its exhibition guide. Merry Foresta, who curated the NMAA exhibition, thought it one of the best examples of the studio’s work.