Father, Daughters, and Nurse

Object Details


Father, Daughters, and Nurse


Thomas Martin Easterly (American, 1809 - 1882)




about 1850


Daguerreotype, hand-colored

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This somber image is as important for what it leaves out as for what it shows. The conspicuous absence of the man's wife and the children's mother and the inclusion of the elderly mammy suggest the latter's role as caregiver to the family and hence her inclusion in the family portrait.

Despite the responsibility of her position, this woman was probably a slave. Her emotional separation from the family is emphasized in the group's body language: the girls lean toward their corpulent father, while the small, old woman sits just beside the small child's chair, her crossed hands in her lap revealing multiple rings that hint at familial connections of her own.

Hidden Witness: African Americans in Early Photography (February 28 to June 18, 1995)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), February 28 to June 18, 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