The J. Paul Getty Museum

Portrait of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre

Object Details


Portrait of Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre


Charles Richard Meade (American, 1826 - 1858)




Bry-sur-Marne, France (Place Created)




Daguerreotype, hand-colored

Object Number:



15.7 × 11.5 cm (6 3/16 × 4 1/2 in.)

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Object Description

By New Year's Day of 1840—little more than one year after William Henry Fox Talbot had first displayed his photogenic drawings in London and just four to five months after the first daguerreotypes had been exhibited in Paris at the Palais d'Orsay in conjunction with a series of public demonstrations of the process—Daguerre's instruction manual had been translated into at least four languages and printed in at least twenty-one editions. In this way, his well-kept secret formula and list of materials quickly spread to the Americas and to provincial locations all over Europe. Photography became a gold rush-like phenomenon, with as much fiction attached to it as fact.

Nowhere was the daguerreotype more enthusiastically accepted than in the United States. Charles R. Meade was the proprietor of a prominent New York photographic portrait studio. He made a pilgrimage to France in 1848 to meet the founder of his profession and while there became one of the very few people to use the daguerreotype process to photograph the inventor himself.

A daguerreotype was (and is) created by coating a highly polished silver plated sheet of copper with light sensitive chemicals such as chloride of iodine. The plate is then exposed to light in the back of a camera obscura. When first removed from the camera, the image is not immediately visible. The plate must be exposed to mercury vapors to "bring out" the image. The image is then "fixed" (or "made permanent on the plate") by washing it in a bath of hyposulfite of soda. Finally it is washed in distilled water. Each daguerreotype is a unique image; multiple prints cannot be made from the metal plate. (Watch a video on the daguerreotype process.)
Adapted from Weston Naef, The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Photographs Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), 33, © 1995 The J. Paul Getty Museum; with additions by Carolyn Peter, J. Paul Getty Museum, Department of Photographs, 2019.

Experimental Photography: Discovery and Invention (January 17 to April 2, 1989)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), January 17 to April 2, 1989
Arrows of Time: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (January 24 to April 2, 1995)
  • Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at UCLA (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 2, 1995
The Art of the Daguerreotype (April 14 to July 12, 1998)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), April 14 to July 12, 1998
Portraits of Renown: Photography and the Cult of Celebrity (April 3 to September 2, 2012)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), April 3 to September 2, 2012
In Focus: Daguerreotypes (November 3, 2015 to March 20, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), November 3, 2015 to March 20, 2016

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 284, ill.

Brunet, François. The Birth of the Idea of Photography, trans. Shane B. Lillis (Toronto: Ryerson Image Centre, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2019), p. 209.