The Three Maidens ~ 1850s


Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 14.21.57 Three Girls ~ 1850s, Anonymous American Photographer

Half-plate daguerreotype, extensively hand-colored, in an elaborate gilt-edged lacquered mat with mother-of-pearl inlay, in a half-case. Two of the three girls, which could be sisters, are dressed in checkered off-the-shoulder dresses. The girl in the middle wears a simple dress with a large lace collar with brooch and short sleeves with broderie anglaise undersleeves. The hairstyle of the younger girls is typical of the 1850s, whereas the older girl in the middle has long loose hair that looks wet, or maybe just unwashed. Probably this hairstyle was just for the photo because girls her age did not normally wear their hair loose. I don’t know why, but to me this image has something very contemporary. Maybe it is the face of the girl in the middle with her defined eye brows that are so fashionable at the moment. She could be a girl we see in a fashion magazine or a modern-day actress à la Emma Stone. She has the perfect pose, hands folded and gaze upwards.


” This wholly unconventional daguerreotype is remarkable for a number of reasons.  Its portrayal of a dramatic scene, with religious overtones, anticipates work that would be done in subsequent decades by photographers such as Julia Margaret Cameron, Henry Peach Robinson, Oscar Rejlander, and, later, F. Holland Day.  The emotional content of this image, as well as its narrative elements, are rare qualities for photographs created in the daguerreian era.  The closest corollaries, perhaps, are presented by the religiously-themed images of American daguerreotypist Gabriel Harrison.  Also similar to this daguerreotype in emotional tenor is Jeremiah Gurney‘s half-plate study of a young girl with her arms crossed, in the collection of Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (Davis, The Origins of American Photography 1839-1885, pl. 44). Also exceptional is the hand-coloring, which is rendered with great subtlety and skill and adds a great deal to the richness of the tableau.  The iridescent colors in the finely crafted lacquered and inlaid mat complement the subtler coloration of the image. “

Sold for 31 250 USD via Sotheby’s 

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