Female Nude at Mirror
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French, 1850 - 1852
Hand-colored daguerreotype
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.