Lemuel Shaw

Photography Studio: Southworth and Hawes (American, active 1843–1863)

Artist: Albert Sands Southworth (American, West Fairlee, Vermont 1811–1894 Charlestown, Massachusetts)

Artist: Josiah Johnson Hawes (American, Wayland, Massachusetts 1808–1901 Crawford Notch, New Hampshire)

Date: ca. 1850

Medium: Daguerreotype

Dimensions: 21.6 x 16.5 cm (8 1/2 x 6 1/2 in.)

Classification: Photographs

Credit Line: Gift of Edward S. Hawes, Alice Mary Hawes, and Marion Augusta Hawes, 1938

Accession Number: 38.34


This portrait of Lemuel Shaw (1781-1861) is the result of the kind of happy accident that is the special province of photography. When Chief Justice Shaw arrived at the 5 1/2 Tremont Row studio to have his portrait made by the Boston partnership of Southworth & Hawes, he happened to stand directly under a skylight that illuminated his imposing figure like the sun passing over a mountain. The photographers quickly moved their equipment to him, and the resulting image perfectly captured the man who embodied, in the words of the Boston Transcript, "the absolute power of a crag vitalized by a human spirit." Shaw's imposing presence, sculpted by intense sunlight and gifted artistic vision, is a startling departure from the conventional posed portrait, customarily set in a studio and lit indirectly.