Postmortem of a Child

Object Details


Postmortem of a Child


Carl Durheim (Swiss, 1810 - 1890)




about 1852


Daguerreotype, hand-colored

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The careful and sensitive arrangement of this child's body and bedclothes, the choice of viewpoint, and the reliance upon light to create a sense of reality, individuality, and remoteness demonstrate Charles Durheim's skill as a daguerreotypist. The girl's tiny hands are clasped delicately across her middle as if sleeping, and the photograph's horizontal orientation reinforces the nineteenth-century idea of death as "eternal slumber."

In the mid-1800s, it became common to use the new medium of photography to create a memento morisuch as this one. Many families commissioned photographers to record the corpses of loved ones just prior to burial.

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
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