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  • Provenance

    The Collection of David Feigenbaum, Marblehead
    Sotheby’s New York, The David Feigenbaum Collection, 27 April 1999, lot 6
    Robert Klein Gallery, Boston

  • Catalogue Essay

    Despite their different professional backgrounds, the paths of Albert Sands Southworth and Josiah Johnson Hawes converged in 1840, when both men attendeda lecture on daguerreotypes given by Charles Daguerre’s student Francois Gouraud. Indeed, while Southworth had been working at a drugstore and Hawes had been earning a living as a portrait painter, both were equally enamored by the new photographic technologies from France, and subsequently sought to master the daguerreotype process. In 1843, the two opened a joint commercial portrait studio in Boston and over the next 19 years established themselves as one of the most successful photographic partnerships.

    The daguerreotype demanded absolute stillness from its subject as the extended exposure meant that a slight movement could affect the clarity of the image. Because
    of this, daguerreotype portraits often appear rigid, sitters frozen by the presence of the camera. However, Southworth & Hawes studio’s success had much to do with their technical mastery of the process and their ability to transform its limitations to remarkable artistic effects. With Hawes’s background in fine art, the duo approached the new medium of photography with the sensitivity of a painter’s eye and together produced some of the finest American portraits ever to be achieved.

    The resting subject in Southworth & Hawes’s Edward Hawes Asleep, with Hands Together, 1850, was not a sentimental choice but rather an astute way to circumvent the stiff
    artificiality of the traditional daguerreotype portrait. The child’s face is perfectly still and yet appears natural and softened in a way rarely seen in 19th-century daguerreotypes. His hands are clasped together and their slight blurriness imply a hint of movement in a fleeting moment.


    Upon close inspection, the composition’s intricate layering of the child covered by folded sheets, lying atop the patterned bedspread, becomes as much an examination of the basic principles of the early days of photography—light and shadow—as it is an intimate portrait of a child: his tangled dark hair against the starkness of the white pillow; the delicate folds of the blanket against the soft pleats of his clothing; one hand extended forward while the body recedes back. To create such tonality, texture and dimension, Southworth & Hawes deviated from common practice and added a second highly polished layer of silver to the plate which resulted in an even deeper, more reflective surface. Through this perfection of the process, Southworth & Hawes transformed the daguerreotype from a product of scientific invention to a powerful tool for artistic exploration.

    This plate originates from the 1999 sale of the Collection of David Feigenbaum, who amassed roughly 240 daguerreotypes by Southworth & Hawes; a number, which at the time of the auction, was the second largest collection of Southworth & Hawes daguerreotypes in both public and private hands. Feigenbaum’s collection most likely originated from Boston’s Holmon Print Shop which handled the sales of Southworth & Hawes in the 1930s and 1940s. When discovered by Feigenbaum’s family upon his death in 1998, the plates were uncased and contained in relatively unassuming wooden storage boxes, consistent with those used by Southworth & Hawes’ studio. Following the auction, the daguerreotype ofered in the present lot was placed in a modern case in order to protect the quality of the delicate surface

IMPORTANT PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR. ANTHONY TERRANA

5

Edward Hawes Asleep, with Hands Together

1850
Whole-plate daguerreotype in a modern case.
6 1/2 x 8 1/2 in. (16.5 x 21.6 cm)
S.o.F. hallmark 9 in the upper left corner.

Estimate
$70,000 - 90,000 

Sold for $80,500

Contact Specialist
Vanessa Kramer Hallett
Worldwide Head of Photographs
[email protected]
+ 1 212 940 1245

Important Photographs from the Collection of Dr. Anthony Terrana

2 & 3 April 2013
New York