Nude at Mirror

Object Details


Nude at Mirror


Unknown maker, French




1850 - 1852


Daguerreotype, hand-colored


6.4 x 5.7 cm (2 1/2 x 2 1/4 in.)

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A young woman in a transparent gown stands against a mirror that reveals her bare shoulder and coyly hints at the rest of her charms hidden in its reflection. She braids her hair, her upraised arms cleverly concealing her breasts. No other part of her is covered save for her stockinged feet, surprising in their black-toed practicality.

The conspicuously crumpled cloth on the chair at the lower right of the image is a subtle reminder of the ordinary circumstances of the photographic sitting: this is not an actual glimpse into a boudoir but a model posing for a fictional scene. Perhaps the fabric was the model's clothing, unceremoniously cast off as she assumed the role of seductress for the camera. Likewise, the rope that appears to hold erect the mirror at right is a reminder of the smoke-and-mirrors theatricality that was common in photographic studios. The photographer has chosen to make visible rather than hide these elements that point to the mundane aspect of studio photography, thus breaking the alluring spell of the would-be enchantress and letting the viewer in on the tricks of the trade.

Little Pictures (December 7, 1993 to March 6, 1994)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), December 7, 1993 to March 6, 1994
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