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Albert S. Southworth, "Suggestions to Ladies Who Sit for Daguerreotypes"
Lady's Almanac, 1854 and 1855
Expression is everything in a daguerreotype. All else,the hair-jewelry-lace-work-drapery or dress, and attitude, are only aids to expression. It must at least be comfortable, and ought to be amiable. It ought also to be sensible, spirited and dignified, and usually with care and patience may be so. A little practice, with a friend to prompt, before a mirror, will save time, and very likely be the means of much increasing the satisfaction of those for whom the likeness is made.
The hair in its arrangement should assist the proportions of the head. If the head is too long and the face thin, the hair should widen and round the features. If the cheek bones are too high and too broad, the breadth of the hair should fall lower down so as not to exaggerate features already too large. The hair may be smooth or lay evenly, but should never be sleeked or matted down; and the practice of shaving the forehead or pulling out the hair is altogether too bare-faced for a lady. It should be arranged in curves, waves or curls, avoiding angles and horn-shaped protuberances. Caps, turbans, lace, and jewelry, should conform to the same rules in aiding the general contour towards good proportions.
All lace-work should be light and thin, never massy; though it may be white or black to suit the occasion. Flowing curls for misses, over a low-necked dress, or for young ladies with handsome outlines of neck and shoulders, are picturesque and pleasing; but thin necks and projecting collar-bones require high dresses with lace, whether in fashion or not. The same remarks apply to arms and hands. If not well filled out, with good outlines, let them be appropriately covered in a picture. Simple jewelry may be taken, but if heavy or massy, it is not admissible except for fancy pictures. If the figure is good the fashion of the dress should show all handsome lines or curves, and hide all that are not so. If the figure is not well proportioned the fashion of the dress should make it appear so as nearly as possible. It is ridiculously absurd for all females to adopt the same fashion-one exact size and pattern for all would hardly be more so. Whatever the fabric selected, avoid large figures or broad stripes. Figures of the same material and color, as watered, striped or figured dark silks, or very narrow striped light silks, are well suited to the daguerreotype.
Dark colors are generally more appropriate than light. Fair complexions may be taken in bridal or ball costume; and dark ones may if the figure is represented on a small scale. Remember that positive red, orange, yellow or green, are the same as black, or nearly so; and violet, purple and blue are nearly the same as white; and arrange your costume accordingly. Rich figured shawls or scarves and dresses usually show well in a picture. Full promenade, carriage, or riding dresses, look well as such, although not suited for a simple likeness.
Infants too young to sit upright, should be taken in their usual long frocks, but when a little older their feet need not be covered; but the whole figure may be prettily taken if they can be kept quiet four or five seconds. As a good rule, let the frock be very low in the neck, with short waist, not tight, yet fitting the form, reaching to the foot; the sleeves very short and loose, ornamented with narrow lace. The skirt should be of woollen fabric, not too full, reaching about half way from the knee to the ankle, and worked, figured or scalloped around the bottom. No other underclothing should be worn except of the thinnest and most pliable material.
If the child is taken half reclining, the bottom of the dress can easily be arranged to show parts of the bottom of the skirt, and the feet and ankles, and all be in good keeping and taste. The color of the frock may be pink, drab, blue, or any color which will show light in the picture. All desirable information in regard to colors and fashions best suited to the daguerreotype may at any time be obtained at Artists' Daguerreotype Rooms, 5 1/2 Tremont Row, directly opposite Brattle Street.
In the Lady's Almanac for 1854, there is a chapter under the above head, on Expression and Drapery, which should be read and re-read by every female. Especially should it be permanently impressed upon the "sitter" for a Daguerreotype, that the Artist has in reality no control over the actual expression of the subject, which is the important part of a Photographic likeness. Having disciplined the features of the face until controllable, select an hour for sitting when you may be in your best mental as well as physical condition. Prearrange dress and drapery in your most tasteful and graceful manner, so that it shall be at least to your own satisfaction. A figure laced to suffocation, a foot aching under the pressure of a too diminutive shoe, or the hair drawn and twisted so tightly as almost to lift its wearer from the floor, thus imparting stiffness and awkwardness to expression even in repose, are but a few of the obstacles with which it will be useless for an Artist, however patient or earnest he may be, to contend.
The hour of departure on a tour of travel, a few hasty moments snatched from a shopping excursion in town, or between hurried morning calls and dinner, will not be likely to find one in a sufficiently fresh and quiet mood to yield to the hints the Artist may desire to throw out expressly for the sitter's benefit.
It has been said that " the most terrible enemy the Daguerreotype has to contend with, is human vanity." This is in a great degree truth. The repeated trials which the Artist finds it necessary to make to avoid Time's rude finger-marks, to overcome the rigidity, languor, or sadness of expression, which disease or affliction may have produced, are among his difficulties and discouragements. Let not these be increased by the infelicities of time or condition above referred to. On your own account, as well as for the sake of those who will value a correct portrait of yourself, choose the most favorable opportunity, as already suggested, and afford the Artist ample time, without haste or nervousness, for his labor.
Next, select the Artist in whom you have confidence, and whose efforts are, to merit and sustain a high reputation. Attend to his suggestions, and feel at home in his rooms, that you may relieve him from all embarrassment and put him equally at ease in your presence. If you have ideas of your own as to the light and shade, or view of the face, suggest freely and then submit all to him. If qualified for his business, he will soon be able to transfer your likeness so as to render prominent the best features, and at the same time conceal or diminish those having least beauty. Aid cheerfully his exertions, and if, with the best efforts of both Artist and subject, the result is a failure, charge it not upon his demerits, nor be discouraged, but try again, and you will thus eventually be successful.
Again, have confidence in the Art itself. There is far more danger of under-valuing than overrating it. It may not, like painting and sculpture, be susceptible of the expression of feelings and emotions which have been awakened in the mind of the Artist, and more nearly realized in his own conceptions. Though it be not to his inner fancy in the creation of scenes and characters and forms which might have existed in a state of higher perfection and rarer intellectual refinement, yet the genius and spirit of poetry must possess the Artist, so that he can ever elevate his characters in portraiture far above common nature. He must have the power to embody the beauties and perfections of his subjects, and at the same time make clear resemblance and identity. He must keep ideality uppermost, and thus infuse it into the mind of the beholder so that he be not degraded to a servile copyist, and his Art to a mere resemblance. And although, as has been already hinted, he who in painting and sculpture can work to his own ideal, has a wider range even in portraiture, and can bring colors as well as forms of nature to his aid, yet in the nice production of light and shade which is the perfection of modelling, the Daguerreotype will be found to surpass the Artist's best efforts, being capable of representing independently, action, expression, and character to a great extent; and in some instances it approaches very nearly, if it does not equal these higher branches, thus developing beauty in grace of motion and in repose, which is the first object and the supreme law of all Art.
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