George F. Reed reportedly worked in Philadelphia as a daguerreotypist beginning in 1842. He wrote his name and May 4th on the paper tape that sealed this unparalleled sixth plate portrait of a smiling young woman. The early dynamic image is both brilliant in visual presentation and outstanding in technical achievement for the period when she was taken circa 1844. The subject was tightly framed inside a brown paper octagonal mat with gold stamped whatnots in the corners connected by a thin, white line. A black line traces the mat opening. She was cropped above her waist, yet Reed allowed us to see her left hand lightly grasping her right arm just above the wrist. I wonder if this confident lass was engaged to be married since her ring was gilded with gold with a daub of red in the center? Her very relaxed smile and brightly shining dark eyes, looking beyond the lens, made this modern day observer think that this was a very happy time in her life. Reed selected classic Rembrandt style lighting from the left and effectively used a white board opposite to soften the shadows. His camera angle was a bit higher than normally seen and coupled with his model’s noble head tilted down ever so slightly, the effect was riveting! The lady’s long dark hair was neatly pulled back from her high cheekbones and rested against her flawless, milky white skin. The leading edge of a lacy cap that surrounded her hair in the back was visible on the left. That accessory along with the highlights in her hair, helped separate her from the coal-toned backdrop. This youthful energetic lass had a long elegant neck, slightly foreshortened by the angle of her head and a white, ruffled collar that rose up to gently caress her flesh. Only a portion of her long sleeved, white dress was visible since she wore a delicately woven, dark fishnet shawl over her shoulders, arms and bosom.
Reed’s total dedication to his craft and his understanding of this attractive maiden’s features has produced a singular daguerreotype that many other very early efforts should be judged against. I am amazed that another piece by Mr. Reed (John Craig listed him as “Read”) has not surfaced into my hands. This resealed plate far exceeds the typical understanding and presentation of an artistic image during the experimental period of the daguerreian era. The heavy plate was hallmarked with a common “L.B.B. & Ce, 40” impression. The corners were clipped narrow at 45 degrees and the four sides remained perfectly flat. I do not believe that the plate was ever cleaned because the hazy tarnish, especially under the mat, is consistent with other paper mats of this type that I have examined. Also, the exquisite hand coloring remains very impressive. The separated leather case had a typical lyre design on the cover with a plain reverse. The thin red velvet inside was torn in several places and embossed with an urn of flowers. Printed in the bottom of the separated case on the paper is: “Manufactured at the Plumbe National Daguerrian Depot, New-York”. There is one faint wipe in the darkness on the left side of the sitter’s lovely face.