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Achondroplastic Dwarf in Tartan Dress and Smoking Cap
Daguerreotype, 1/4 plate
Sotheby's - New York
Ebay sale, ending, 5 October 2017, Lot: 31
Daguerreotypes depicting dwarfism are rare. When this daguerreotype was originally illustrated in Richard Rudisill’s 1971 volume Mirror Image, it was described simply: ‘A picture of a strange-looking child builds to a compositional climax and is quite striking’ (p. 126). The subject of this unusual portrait has Achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, which is characterized by a long trunk, short limbs, and a large head with a depressed nasal bridge.
Achondroplasia has been depicted several times by artists through the centuries; in the 1656 masterpiece Las Meninas, now in the collection of the Museo del Prado, Madrid, Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez prominently featured Maria Barbola, an achondroplastic dwarf, in the foreground.
According to Craig’s Daguerreian Registry, it is believed that Anson Clark learned the daguerreian process as early as 1840. By May of 1841, Clark and his son Edwin had opened a gallery in their family home in West Stockbridge, Massachusetts. While early success appears to have prompted them to open a second gallery in Great Barrington, Clark may have retired as early as 1844 (Vol. 2, p. 110).
Stanley B. Burns, Mirror Mirror: The Burns Collection Daguerreotypes (New York: The Burns Archive Press, 2012), pl. 122
Richard Rudisill, Mirror Image: The Influence of the Daguerreotype on American Society, (Albuquerque, 1971), pl. 40