Photography Studio: Southworth and Hawes (American, active 1843–1863)
Artist: Albert Sands Southworth (American, West Fairlee, Vermont 1811–1894 Charlestown, Massachusetts)
Artist: Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, Wayland, Massachusetts 1808–1901 Crawford Notch, New Hampshire)
Date: ca. 1850
Dimensions: 21.6 x 16.5 cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)
Credit Line: Gift of I. N. Phelps Stokes, Edward S. Hawes, Alice Mary Hawes, and Marion Augusta Hawes, 1937
Accession Number: 37.14.53
The Boston partnership of Southworth and Hawes produced the finest portrait daguerreotypes in America for a clientele that included the leading political, intellectual, and artistic figures. This first photographic process, invented by Louis Daguerre (1798-1851), spread rapidly around the world after its public presentation in Paris in 1839. Exposed in a camera obscura and developed in mercury vapors, each highly polished silver plate is a unique photograph that, viewed in proper light, exhibits extraordinary detail and three-dimensionality.
This mesmerizing portrait would also seem to be an allegory of allegiance, in which the young girl directs the viewer’s attention back to the iconic painting of George Washington. Recent scholarship suggests that this daguerreotype is actually a copy of another daguerreotype--adding further to the complex play of gazes--but as yet the subject and exact meaning of this enigmatic image are not known.