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Clown, ca. 1850-1855

Plate (sixth): 3 1/4 × 2 3/4 inches (8.26 × 6.99 cm) Case (open): 3 3/4 × 6 3/8 × 3/8 inches (9.53 × 16.19 × 0.95 cm) Case (closed): 3 3/4 × 3 1/4 × 5/8 inches (9.53 × 8.26 × 1.59 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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