Product Description

PD109: 1895 – 1905c Truly Stunning, Museum Quality and Important Half Plate Revival Daguerreotype of an American Actress (Possibly A Portrait Of The Legendary Lilian Russell) – By Mathew J. Steffens or possibly Josiah Johnson Hawes? A Dag of Many Mysteries! – Offered is an astonishing large portrait of a beautiful woman lavishly dressed to the nines. It is truly the most stunning portrait I have ever handled and one of the best I have ever seen. Even for the late 1800’s and early 1900’s this beauty is over dressed which leads the line of inquiry towards the noted actresses of the day. Our fine lady bears a strong resemblance to the iconic and legendary Lillian Russell. The attribution has gained further weight following the discovery of an image of Russell wearing the identical jewellery to the actress in this master piece (see next page). This daguerreotype is important for so many reasons from its large size; its almost unsurpassed technical brilliance; the dreamy pose; the outfit; likely actress attribution and in particular the link to Russell; and finally that it is an incredibly rare revival period daguerreotype likely by one of the best studios of the late 1800’s. Revival period daguerreotypes are very rare and sought after. In the late 1800’s Josiah Johnson Hawes was still around a started taking photographs again using his old daguerreotype equipment. There became a growing movement (helped by several exhibits at the 1893 World’s Fair In Chicago celebrating images from the dawn of photography) where people looked back on the good old days with fondness and tried to bring back the lost artistry of the period. Besides Hawes, the leading exponent of the revival was Mathew J. Steffens who operated his studio out of the trendy east side of Chicago. It was known as one of the big 6 photographers (with the likes of Sarony etc) of the day and took many images of celebrities. There is a big following for his work and a lot of historical interest in his revival daguerreotype but unfortunately, very few have survived. I can tell you with all assurance that this is not a modern daguerreotype or a copy of another picture – guaranteed from life and taken in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s. Condition wise, the large plate is almost immaculate with only a few of the smallest of spots. There is no wiping or scratching on the plate and this image shows great contrast and details. This was the work of a master. Original 1860’s half case included but housed in a full vintage thermoplastic half plate case. Archivally resealed with P90.