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Title:Deceased child in blue dress with hands crossed over chest
Date Made:ca. 1850
Materials:hand-colored daguerreotype in book-style case
Place Made:United States
Measurements:case (closed): 3 3/4 in x 3 1/4 in x 1/2 in; 9.525 cm x 8.255 cm x 1.27 cm;(oval) image: 2 1/4 in x 1 3/4 in; 5.715 cm x 4.445 cm
Narrative Inscription:  unsigned, undated
Accession Number:  SC 2009.25.3
Credit Line:Purchased with the Rita Rich Fraad, class of 1937, Fund for American Art and the fund in honor of Charles Chetham
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

Post mortem; memento mori photograph; brown leather tooled case with metal clasp, pink silk inside cover, plain gold mat around oval image of dead deceased girl; child with hands folded over chest in hand painted blue dress, hand colored flowers over her proper left arm and small jointed doll laying on her dress

Label Text:
With the invention of photography, and in particular the daguerreotype around 1837, it became more affordable to have a family portrait made. Previously only the wealthy few could afford a family portrait, painted either by a local or in the case of great wealth, by a well-known artist.
However, the spontaneous family snapshot was still in the future. Professional photographers had small studios or would come to people’s houses to take elaborately set-up and choreographed portraits. This was necessary because of the long exposure times. Metal head clamps were used to assist the sitter so that the photograph would not blur. These constraints` obviously made it difficult to photograph young children. For this reason, we do not see young children depicted in many of these early photos-If we do, they are either asleep or deceased.
Infant mortality rates were extremely high during the 19th century. It is not surprising that parents chose to have their child photographed after death. It was often the first and only chance they had to have their child immortalized. While this custom seems somewhat morbid to the modern eye, the elaborate and detailed arrangement of the deceased child reflects the care and love of the parents. These photographs were not to be hidden away but would be displayed among the photos of the living.

Other label: This daguerreotype of a deceased child is mounted in a leather casing with expensive red silk lining. It was meant to be displayed or presented, shown with images of the living or carried in a pocket as a keepsake.

Additional writing on this object can be found at
Paper + People the Cunningham Center Blog.

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