“The shadow of your noble self”: The reception and use of daguerreotypes

Anne A. Verplanck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


By the mid-nineteenth century, one could have a portrait rendered in a variety of media virtually anywhere in America. After 1839, daguerreotypes supplemented older portrait forms, and cities such as Philadelphia became major centers for the production and consumption of photographic images. Novelty, availability, and price are reasons typically associated with daguerreotype consumption. Yet for some Philadelphians, long-term interest in scientific discovery translated into efforts to refine daguerreotypic processes and steadily patronize the medium. For others, viewing daguerreotypes conjured deep emotions associated with separation and loss, or other feelings that received heightened attention in this period. The introduction of daguerreotypes did not spur a direct, immediate decline in other commissions, but instead affected the appearance of, and the methods for creating, painted and printed portraits. By analyzing their production and consumption in a specific social and cultural context, we can further understand the reception of daguerreotypes in an expanding market economy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-73
Number of pages27
JournalWest 86th
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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