UNBELIEVABLY LUMINESCENT! Written with a bold hand on a scrap of paper that came with the monumental half plate architectural masterpiece was this information: “Home of Capt. Nath(aniel) Lord Thompson Built by him in 1842.” While there are reams of information (in a book published in 1937 that I own) about the owner of the magnificent Greek Revival style home still located at 23 Summer St. in Kennebunk Maine, I will initially discuss how this pristine testimony to the high art of landscape daguerreotypy was made. I should mention that the plate was double-silvered and the polish on the silver could not have been surpassed circa 1850 when I believe the plate was exposed. The daguerreotypist was very cognizant and experienced in making dags of structures. Not only did he use a wide-angle lens, which very few men would have owned to make this exposure, he visited the location during the summer on a day when there wasn?t direct sunlight but rather a high overcast sky of unbroken cloud cover. Otherwise, there would have been deep shadows on parts of the home and attached buildings because the trees had full leafy canopies. Or . . . he might have seen the property in advance and realized that since the house faced north northeast he would either have to arrive on a day described above or at dawn. And . . . since the daguerreotype is orientated exactly like a view on Google Earth, the camera operator also used a reversing prism on the front of his lens to produce the laterally correct image. There were two carriages in the drive and an open barn door, on the left. That suggests that the daguerreotypist arrived in one of those vehicles and his horse(s) were temporarily stabled inside. There was a ghostly swaying gent standing on the porch. He was casually dressed in trousers, a white shirt and vest. Surely he was a servant or hired helper. Because he didn’t remain motionless while leaning against the doorframe, I suspect the exposure was 10-20 seconds. If Captain Thompson were home when the plate was taken, he would have been positioned proudly near one of those granite posts in front of the wrought iron fence. Because many of the lower windows were shuttered and the third story window left wide open for ventilation it must have been a very warm day. I wonder what the white object draped over the wooden fence rail in the foreground was? Before the artist went to such great efforts to perfectly render the building in such an idyllic sylvan setting, shouldn?t he have removed it? The fact that there was virtually no distortion in the buildings points towards a sense of visual acuity and ?architectural correctness? the daguerreian possessed. The man who was responsible for the daguerreotype obviously had been successful with other previous commissions. Only pale brown dots and a couple nearly invisible dots are visible on the creamy surface. When the complete leather case is opened and the plate is viewed in good light, then the true genius of the operator becomes instantly apparent!
Home of Captain Thompson, Kennebunk, Maine Half Plate Dag