Sixth Plate



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A POWERFUL FIGURE STUDY. This was an outstanding sixth plate daguerreotype of a 35-year-old man with coal black eyes highlighted by two fine pinpoints of light that entered the space from directly behind the camera. His black hair was curiously combed down around his temples. He was seated almost against the vertically wrinkled backdrop. The man’s head and left shoulder shadows were quite evident. Slightly above him a decorative drape was tied off at a 45-degree angle. This arrangement in very early portrait daguerreotypes was used sparingly beginning in 1841. The fellow’s right arm rested upon a rough, uncovered wooden table behind a stack of three books. In his left hand he held a rolled up document angled across his chest. The composition was actually quite complex considering that the gent was taken late 1841 into the first half of 1842. The overall sharpness was exceptional! Lens distortion of his neck, shoulders and elongated fingers were very typical at this period. A classic Corduan & Co N.Y. hallmark was stamped in the bottom center of the plate. It appears to have been made with one die, since the letters are consistent and in a straight line. The plate was heavy with square corners. It had been cut down slightly on all four sides. There were very slight, nearly unnoticeable, crimp marks at the top corners. The reverse of the plate, which had been retaped and cleaned circa 1847, was rematted with an oval opening. A brass protector was also added. The original seal, which was very thin porous paper tape, was evident. That element, the chemistry used and the way the dag had been stored all possibly caused the image to tarnish rapidly, creating a good reason for the early restoration. I think the original mat was probably a rectangular, gold gilded paper mat. The plate was not finished with gold chloride but a heavy varnish or shellac had been applied. Thin horizontal wipes are evident across the top and others were done on diagonal angles. Apparently the silver had been cleaned using cyanide gas. The spidery marks along the edges of the plate were actually furrows that were caused by the deterioration of the original cover glass. I removed the incorrect oval brass mat and cut another example into the rectangle when I used new glass and an archival seal to protect the subject. I must tell you that the contrast was amazing and the depth actually quite stupendous. He is kept in a proper leather case from the date he posed for this impressive likeness.

For Purchase Inquiry Contact:
Dennis A. Waters at