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Not Human (excerpt), by Brandon Latu

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[Postmortem]

Alphonse Le Blondel (French, Bréhal 1814–1875 Lille)

Date:
ca. 1850
Medium:
Daguerreotype
Dimensions:
8.9 x 11.9 cm (3 1/2 x 4 11/16 in.)
Classification:
Photographs
Credit Line:
Gilman Collection, Purchase, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation Gift, through Joyce and Robert Menschel, 2005
Accession Number:
2005.100.31
  • Description

    In bequeathing to later generations a record of the faces of their ancestors, an entire class that had never before been able to afford portraiture was offered some small degree of immortality by the daguerreotype. That desire to preserve the memory of loved ones found poignant expression in the practice of postmortem photography, a final visual record of the deceased with the power to preserve the image of the mind's eye. Such daguerreotypes were seen as direct impressions of the deceased, as expressed on the label affixed to the verso of this example advertising "Portraits after death, death masks."
    This particularly theatrical postmortem is artfully composed so as to present the dead child bathed in heavenly light, the folds of white drapery suggesting the ascension of the soul while the surrounding room and watchful father are shrouded in mournful shadow. The engraved signature, "Le Blondel Lille," confirms that the artist considered this a significant work, no mere run-of-the-mill product.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed, recto, lower left: "LeBlondel Lille"

  • Provenance

    [Gérard Lévy, Paris] (sold, Christie's East, May 14, 1981, lot 25); Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
283105

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