Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

[Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry]

Artist:
Mathew B. Brady (American, born Ireland, 1823?–1896 New York)
Date:
1856–58
Medium:
Salted paper print from glass negative
Dimensions:
Image : 33.1 x 28.4cm (13 1/16 x 11 3/16in.) Mount: 18 1/8 in. × 14 in. (46 × 35.5 cm)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, Joseph M. Cohen Gift, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.100.84
Not on view
Mathew Brady was a skilled daguerreotypist, having learned the technical aspects of the process from the American pioneers of the medium, Samuel Morse and John Draper. Other qualities, however, set him apart from competing daguerreotypists who operated in New York in 1844, the year that Brady opened his first studio: artistry in his sense of lighting and in the way he posed his sitters; a personal manner that set his clientele at ease in sumptuously appointed quarters; and a frankly elitist conception of both the business and the social mission of this most democratic medium.
Early on Brady set himself the task of photographing the nation's leading figures--presidents and military men, business leaders and stars of the stage, writers and artists. Each daguerreotype of a man or woman of mark, displayed in the studio's reception room, attracted new clients and bore witness to the skill, art, and social standing of "Brady of Broadway" as much as it did to the taste and station of the sitter.
Sometimes coaxing notable personalities to sit before his camera with the offer of a free daguerreotype from among the several he would make at a single sitting, Brady amassed an impressive collection of portraits. Keen on distributing his pictures of luminaries to a wider audience, Brady published in 1850 "The Gallery of Illustrious Americans," a finely executed series of twelve prints copied from his daguerreotypes by the French-born lithographer Francis D'Avignon.
Another way to reproduce daguerreotypes for public sale was provided in the mid-1850s by the introduction in America of collodion-on-glass negatives, or wet plates. Indeed, some of Brady's early daguerreotype portraits are now known only through salted paper print copies. Soon the glass negative and paper print replaced the daguerreotype altogether as the means by which Brady gathered and distributed the faces of his time.
Here, the imposing figure of Commodore Matthew Perry (1794-1858), whose quasi-military diplomatic mission of 1852-54 opened Japan to the West, commands the viewer's attention. The Old Bruin, as the sailors called him, was photographed in dress uniform toward the end of his life, his nearly fifty years of Navy service weighting his features like the epaulettes on his shoulders.
Inscription: Label on mount, verso TC: "Commodore M.C. Perry (of the Japan Expedition: negotiated first com- // -mercial treaty with Japan)"
Frederick Hill Meserve Collection; [Paul Katz, North Bennington, Vermont]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, September 27, 1983

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