Art/ Collection/ Art Object

[Two Young Men]

Unknown (American)
ca. 1850
Image: 10.8 x 8.3 cm (4 1/4 x 3 1/4 in.)
Credit Line:
Gift of Herbert Mitchell, 2001
Accession Number:
Not on view
Among the many momentous social transformations generated by photography's invention was the possibility of self-representation by a large variety of groups previously excluded from official portraiture. Seamstresses, carpenters, gold miners, and even the recently deceased sat for their official portraits, leaving behind an extremely valuable record of their anonymous, if not invisible, lives. This portrait shows two young men in a tender embrace, their thighs entwined, sharing a suggestive moment before the camera. Are they lovers? Perhaps, but more likely this photograph is an example of the natural and unselfconscious intimacy and physical contact that men enjoyed in a pre-Freudian era.
Inscription: Typed initials on paper label affixed to case back, C: "W.S.S."
Herbert Mitchell, New York

International Center of Photography. "Dear Friends: American Photographs of Men Together, 1840–1918," March 29, 2001–June 10, 2001.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Old Faces and Places: American Photographs, 1845-1870," February 3, 2004–April 25, 2004.

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