Man & Woman with Family Portrait, ca. 1850

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Daguerreotype of Unknown Man and Woman holding a Daguerreotype photo, ca. 1850

This puzzling portrait really speaks to my imagination. Who are the sitters, what was their relationship? Are they husband and wife, or brother and sister? And what is their relationship to the people in the photograph (a mother and her four children) that they are holding up with such loving devotion? The young woman on the right is dressed in black – is she in mourning? Are the people on the photograph deceased? Or is just the mother of the four children deceased, and the sitters (who may be the two oldest siblings) commissioned this portrait holding the photograph as a memory of their mother who passed away?

The hair of the woman on the right, holding the photo, is styled in what looks like two long braids, which could indicate that she is rather young – mostly only young girls style their hair this way. If she really is a young teenage girl then the man on the left might be her brother? Or did she marry very young as was not uncommon these days? If you look closely  the finger nails of both the man and the woman do not seem very clean. Their style of dress also looks rather simple. Who knows who they were? On the website of the MOMA it says the photo is ca. 1850, but somehow to me it seems more like 1840s, especially the woman on the right. But I might be mistaken.

What are your thoughts on this portrait? I would look forward to hearing your musings!


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