[Painted portrait, unknown sitter]

Jesse H. Whitehurst1850 - 1870

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Houston, United States

Whitehurst was a successful and prolific daguerreotypist, largely in the South, establishing studios in Baltimore and Washington, through Virginia and into North Carolina. This work is a hand-colored daguerreotype of a painted portrait, and as such it tells a part of the story of photography’s role in the life of images: though each daguerreotype was one of a kind, the medium was capable of making accurate copies of a preexisting image so that many people could share it, just as today one might make copies of an ancestor’s photograph for many members of the family. With its presentation in a brass mat and leather case, just as one would see on a true daguerreotype portrait, and with the touches of reddish pigment enlivening the face, this image is momentarily convincing as a photographic image of a living person. In a postmodern age of appropriation—images of images—this work prompts us to question the nature of representation.

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  • Title: [Painted portrait, unknown sitter]
  • Creator: Jesse H. Whitehurst
  • Date: 1850 - 1870
  • Physical Dimensions: w18.3 x h22.9 x d2.1 cm (overall, closed)
  • Type: Photographs
  • External Link: MFAH
  • Medium: Daguerreotype with applied color
  • Credit Line: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, museum purchase funded by S.I. Morris Photography Endowment