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  The research archive of Gary W. Ewer regarding the history of the daguerreotype

On this day (October 8) in the year 1842, the following two items appeared in their respective publications: - - - - - - - - - In the 8 October 1842 "Chambers's Edinburgh Journal": USES OF THE DAGUERREOTYPE. [From the "Spectator."] THE Daguerreotype process, as improved by M. Claudet, can represent objects all but in motion; a momentary suspension of movement only is necessary to fix the image on the plate, and a transient expression of the countenance is rendered permanent. Several members of the corps de ballet at the Italian opera lately stood--or rather danced--for their portraits to M. Claudet, in postures that could be retained but for an instant, such as poising on one toe with the other leg extended, and resting on the points of both feet. These miniatures may be seen at the Adelaide Gallery, and very curious they are; the whole of the figure, and even groups of two or three dancers, being delineated on a plate of two or three inches high, in which the play of the features and the minutest characteristics of the dress are discernible. M. Claudet's collection of likenesses includes the queen-dowager and other distinguished personages; but the most interesting of the series to us were those of Mademoiselle Rachel, in ordinary costume, and with her habitual look when in a thoughtful state of quietude. Mind and character are so vividly and delicately portrayed, that we could not but wish that the great tragic actress had sat in some of those different states of emotion which her eloquent countenance can express at will with so much intensity. If there is one thing more than another that the magic power of the Daguerreotype is valuable for, it is this of limning the fleeting shades of expression in the human face: for here the art of the painter, however great his skill, is most at fault; and it is only in his happiest moments that the artist of genius can transfer to the canvas the indications of lively sensation, strong passion, and profound thought, or even of individual character in a quiescent state. Could Garrick have looked all his characters before the lens of the Daguerreotype, generations would have beheld again and again what was given to his contemporaries to see once and away. Charles Mathews, who dipped for faces behind his green table, and brought up a fresh one every time, would have had nothing to doubt to present his various physiognomies successively before the Daguerreotype camera to have them reflected in that retinent mirror. We instance actors in particular, Rachel have put us on the histrionic track; and also because, their art consisting in assuming at will certain characters and feelings, the Daguerreotype is peculiarly well adapted to take their portraits in a state of emotion: orators and others could only be so taken unawares, which would be scarcely practicable except in rare instances. But some readers, having a prejudice against the Daguerreotype miniatures, may be ready to protest against their incorrectness as well as their grimness; and this brings us to the point which we are aiming to enforce, namely, the necessity for viewing the photographs through a medium of high magnifying power, not only to correct the slight aberration caused by the diminishing lens of the camera, but to amplify their shadows so as to lessen their density and remove the harshness and blackness consequent theron. The image is too minute for any but a microscopic scrutiny to develop all its minutiae of form; and, looking at the plate with the naked eye, one does not perceive the object truly and completely, even in point of form. A compensating lens, through which the visitors might view the photographic limnings, and artists might copy them when required, would be a desirable addition to the new arrangements that M. Claudet is now making at the Adelaide Gallery for facilitating his operations and promoting the convenience of visitors. The value of the Daguerreotype as an aid to artists both in landscape and portraiture, is not yet fully appreciated; not is the practice of producing prints from photographs so general as it is likely to become. We allude not to the experiments of taking impression from the plates themselves (which the specimens that have been shown, though very imperfect, prove to be not altogether impossible), but to copies from them. A work has been commenced in Paris, called "Excursions Daguerriennes," containing views of the principal cities and remarkable places in the world, some numbers of which we have seen in London. The engravings are very neat and accurate notwithstanding the absence of very minute detail, and the inferiority of the execution to the marvellous delicacy of nature's image, they are beautiful as works of art, and of course exact representations of the places. * * * * * * * * And this brief notice in the 8 August 1842 "Cardiff and Merthyr Guardian" (Cardiff, Wales): Mr. Bosanquet, the celebrated profilist, is now visiting our town. Having seen many of his likenesses, we can confidently pronounce them first-rate. Mr. B. possesses the happy knack of catching the expression in which so many fail. The Daguerreotype itself is scarcely more faithful than his portraitures, whilst the effect of the latter is much more pleasing. We recommend all our friends to pay Mr. Bosanquet a visit. (With thanks to Stephen Rowson for both of today's items.) -------------------------------------------------------------- 10-08-97

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