Medallion Portraits


According to The Spirit of Fact, The Daguerreotypes of Southworth & Hawes, 1843-1862, the “medallion” portrait was technically the most difficult of styles available in the 1850’s. Using the sliding plate holder Southworth had patented in 1855, Southworth & Hawes further exploited this medallion style by continuing the process for eight sequential exposures of different rotating poses. We are pleased to offer a half-plate ambrotype of a family which illustrates this wonderful and rare technique. The patriarch of the family takes front and center. With his strong, forceful expression there is no doubt that he is the dominant force. His white hair has started to recede in the front, but the longer locks in the back harken back to the previous generation. We assume the woman on the top-left side is his wife, while his prized son takes the top-center position. His seven daughters comprise the remaining images, with two posing together on the bottom to make this eight portrait medallion possible. The photographer is unidentified yet the image is in a plain leather black push-button Boston-style case. The plate is in very good condition with some light tinting visible on a few of the faces. The image is backed by an additional piece of dark period glass. Some of the small spots visible in the scan are actually bubbles in this dark glass and not on the plate. It is topped with a thin cover glass and piece of period cardboard backing has also been added. A remnant of the old seal was visible on the glass and we have since resealed this image with Filmoplast tape. The case is in excellent condition and the pushbutton closure works perfectly. This is a very rare ambrotype. Don’t miss this chance to enhance your collection as another example might not be seen on the market for a long time!