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Clown, ca. 1850-1855

Plate: 3 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches (8.26 x 6.99 cm) Image: 2 3/8 x 1 7/8 inches (6.03 x 4.76 cm) Case: 3 5/8 x 3 1/4 x 3/4 inches (9.21 x 8.26 x 1.91 cm)

Gift of Hallmark Cards, Inc., 2005.27.90

© Nelson Gallery Foundation

Location: Not on view

The daguerreotype, the world’s first successful photographic process, was dominant from 1839 to the late 1850s. It produces one-of-a-kind images; each daguerreotype is unique—there is no “negative” from which identical duplicates may be made. It is a complex process that involves a silver-coated copper plate, sensitization over iodine and bromine and development by exposure to the fumes of mercury. In its 20 year span, the daguerreotype was used to record a broad spectrum of subjects, from people to city views, landscapes to still lives. This memorable image is an example of the occupational portrait—an image of a person in which costumes or props are used to reveal something about the individual’s interests or profession. A lively and unconventional work, this image disproves the common assumption that all early portraits are stiff and humorless.

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