The J. Paul Getty Museum

Two Women Embracing

Object Details


Two Women Embracing


Unknown maker, French




about 1848


Daguerreotype, hand-colored

Object Number:



10.8 × 14.4 cm (4 1/4 × 5 11/16 in.)

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Object Description

Two nude women gaze adoringly at one another and physically interact. The woman lounging on the couch places her hand under the other's breast as if caressing it, but their frontally oriented and ultimately awkward-looking poses are clearly meant for the pleasure of the observer, not for each other. The photographer has carefully positioned both bodies for full revelation. The two women mirror each other in their pose and flesh and are even placed in front of a mirror so that seemingly no inch of them is left unrevealed.

The lesbian content of this plate might seem surprising for its time, but Paris supplied a booming international market for erotic imagery in the mid-nineteenth century. Other erotic French photographs commonly featured a single woman whose suggestive posturing teetered between artist's study or académie and pornography, which was surging in popularity at the time.

Adapted from, Interpretive Content Department, 2008.

- 1984

Werner Bokelberg, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1984.

The Flowering of Early French Photography, 1840-1870 (April 28 to June 28, 1987)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), April 28 to June 28, 1987
The Flowering of Early French Photography: Selections from the J. Paul Getty Museum Collection (December 20, 1988 to May 7, 1989)
  • The Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore), December 20, 1988 to February 12, 1989
  • Toledo Museum of Art (Toledo), March 11 to May 7, 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
French Daguerreotype (May 12, 2003 to January 4, 2004)
  • Musée d'Orsay (Paris), May 12 to August 17, 2003
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), September 22, 2003 to January 4, 2004
In Focus: The Nude (October 9, 2007 to February 24, 2008)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 9, 2007 to February 24, 2008

Naef, Weston J. The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Photographs Collection (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1995), p. 49, ill. no. 46.

Lowry, Bates, and Isabael Barrett Lowry. The Silver Canvas : Daguerreotype Masterpieces from the J. Paul Getty Museum, exh. cat. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1998), p. 157, pl. 58.

Peters, Kathrin, and Andrea Seier (eds.). Gender & Medien-Reader (Zurich: Diaphanes, 2016), p. 153.