Daguerreotypes & Ambrotypes

The daguerreotype is one of the earliest forms of photography. The year of its invention is generally given as 1839. It became very popular immediately and continued to be the most popular means of creating a photographic image into the late 1850's. Daguerreotypes are images created on silver coated copper plates. Thus they have a mirror-like reflective surface.

Ambrotypes were used for a short period of time beginning in 1858. The image is on glass. They are much darker looking than daguerreotypes. If examined closely from the front, you can usually see that it is on glass and not on metal. The image may have the appearance of being on two levels when you look at it from the side. However, they can look very much like tintypes. If the image is removed from its hinged case and you look at the corner edges which often exposed where the metal mat is open at the corners, you will see that there is only glass if it is an ambrotype. If it is a tintype, you will see the edge of a sheet of tin.

Both daguerreotypes and ambrotypes were usually encased in hinged cases of gutta percha or leather with an impressed design. Daguerreotypes were also displayed in lockets and in wooden frames. Daguerreotypes may have tarnish on the surface. Often, depending on the pattern of the tarnish, this is considered aesthetically pleasing and should not be removed. Cleaning a daguerreotype is not advised except in the most dire circumstances of poor condition. Cleaning should be done only by someone who is skilled at cleaning using the latest methods that will not damage the dag permanently. Many of the cleaning methods used in past years caused images to tarnish more severely as time went on. Using the wrong cleaning method decreases the value of a daguerreotype.

  • Daguerreotypes

Daguerreotype of Man with Sideswept Hair, Pipe, and Inkwell

This circa late 1840's sixth plate daguerreotype portrait of a man is an exceptionally well done image. He has an odd hairstyle that poofs out to one side. He is seated at a table on which is an inkwell with a feather quill pen, papers, a book, and a pipe. His hand is posed at his chin so that he looks pensive as he gazes to one side rather than at the camera.

Daguerreotype of Man with Sideswept Hair, Pipe, and Inkwell

He wears a bow tie and looks to be very nicely dressed in a long dark jacket. I get the feeling that he thought well of himself and that he might have been known for something at the time. At least among his closest friends? The image is quite sharp in the areas of his jacket, hand, and face. The areas of the book and inkwell look to be outside of the depth of field as done by the photographer. There is some tarnish but it does not detract from the image in my opinion. This is an exceptionally attractive well composed image and a fine portrait. The paper seal is gone. The image measures 2 11/16 by 3 3/16". Case complete but separated at hinge.

Back and front of the case for the dag of the man with upswept hair.

Price: Sold!

Reference number: 3937.jpg