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Southworth & Hawes
Two sisters posing with a chair
Daguerreotype, 1/4 plate
Swann Galleries - New York
Courtesy of Swann Galleries (Auction, May 21, 2015, #2385, Lot 238)
A skylight in the ceiling of Albert Sands Southworth & Josiah Hawes' Boston studio allowed light to flood their space, a nearly unheard of architectural feature which likely accounts for the relaxed figures typically seen in the pair's tour-de-force daguerreotype portraits. The unusual quantity of light allowed them greater flexibility and shorter exposure times, the results of which can be seen in this tender portrait of two women. The pair leans comfortably towards each other, their faces open and serene, the detail on their dresses and lace collars easily readable.
Southworth & Hawes, sought after daguerreotypists in their day, are still one of the most celebrated partnerships in the history of photography, and the benchmark for excellence in daguerreotype making in America. They worked together for 19 years and experimented continuously, developing a higher quality of plate preparation by electroplating another layer of silver onto the standard plates (before buffing and sensitization), that allowed them to generate a high level of tonal range and detail. It is widely considered that Southworth contributed the greater entrepreneurial skills, and Hawes his artistry and technical mastery, but undoubtedly, without each other, neither would have achieved their singular level of mastery.
This portrait is a variant of the whole-plate that was featured on the front cover of the Feigenbaum auction catalog, Sotheby's New York, April 27, 1999.