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Mother and child
Daguerreotype, 1/4 plate
Larry Gottheim, Be-hold, Inc
Courtesy of Larry Gottheim (Auction: Feb 21, 2008, 51, part 1 / lot 17)
There is a small group of daguerreotypes and other early matted images known as "hidden mothers" - sometimes nannies or even fathers. Generally the mat is much wider than normal, with a small central window. If one removes the mat, one sees the mother or other adult holding and comforting the child, but not intended to be part of the picture and thus concealed by the mat. A related type of image has the caring adult hidden under a blanket, with sometimes only a hand or arm visible.
This is the opposite. The child is still centrally present, but the adoring mother is made an essential part of the picture, fully revealed by the very thin mat. The child is truly vibrant and charming, but also the mother, though only partly seen, is fully present with her wayward curl and tender fingers just visible at the side of her child's head.
The plate has that creamy softly lustrous surface found in the best work of the major Boston studios such as Southworth & Hawes and Whipple, a result of extra silvering and expert preparation.