Gilman Collection, Purchase, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee Gift, 2005
Not on view
Although Civil War photography has been much studied, there are still important photographs about which little is known. This formal portrait of a well-to-do family with two military guards and a black servant is a good example. The slight tension and awkwardness detectable in the group, as well as the presence of the guards, points to the absence of the father. One guard wears a Union Army belt buckle inscribed "U.S.," and the architecture suggests the elegant homes of Alexandria, Virginia, and the Georgetown district of Washington, D.C. But what occasioned this solemn image remains a mystery. In an era dominated by routine albumen silver prints, this exceptionally large salted paper print suggests the work of one of the better New York or Washington studios. A likely photographer is Alexander Gardner, whose portrait work for Mathew Brady was often executed in salted paper prints rivaling those made by the best European photographers. Perhaps the inscription, "No 5," at the bottom center of the print will ultimately help solve the mystery of this haunting photograph.
Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings
Inscription: Inscribed in ink on print, recto BC : "No. 5."; inscribed in pencil on print, verso, TL: "No. 5."
[Paul Katz, North Bennington, Vermont]; Gilman Paper Company Collection, New York, January 27, 1987
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," May 25, 1993–July 4, 1993.
Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," August 7, 1993–October 2, 1993.
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection," June 19, 1994–September 11, 1994.
Carrousel du Louvre, Paris. "Constructed Views: Photography and Architecture," November 19, 1998–November 23, 1998.
Hambourg, Maria Morris, Pierre Apraxine, Malcolm Daniel, Virginia Heckert, and Jeff L. Rosenheim. The Waking Dream: Photography's First Century, Selections from the Gilman Paper Company Collection. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993. no. 99.