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Sixth Plate


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SKU: DX-1 Category:

“SLEEPING PERI”! This particular unique archivally restored sixth plate has monumental beauty! The subject, rumored to have been one of the sculptor’s neighbors who posed for Erastus Dow Palmer, while he was working in his Albany NY studio, was gloriously chiseled in marble several times and then a plaster cast was taken from one of those miraculous statues and placed on brilliantly polished silver that exhibits phenomenal technical aspects. Casey broke very old tape seals that are included underneath the masterpiece. The dag is held in an original push button leather case with two exterior brass hinges. This was the most expensive style of leather case offered for sale in the large daguerreian galleries. The contrast in the portrait is unsurpassed and the depth is absolutely holographic! Those white specks are daguerreian frosting, which occurred when the mercury pot was overheated and the operator was trying to extend the contrast to create richer blacks. Many extant plates taken by the finest daguerreians in America have a similar appearance. Naturally they are more noticeable in my scan, as are those feathery scratches done either at the time the marvelous still life was daguerreotyped, circa 1856, or certainly before the turn of the 20th century. From one source on the Internet, I copied this information; “Erastus Dow Palmer is significant to art historians as the first well-known American Neo-Classical sculptor to pursue his professional career at home rather than abroad in Italy. He was a sculptor whose themes were often religious, especially dominated by Christianity, and the tone was often romantic and melodramatic. He was born at Pompey, New York, and first worked as a carpenter and pattern maker, carving wood molds, and then took up cameo cutting. However, his eyesight suffered with the detail work, and instead he modeled portrait busts in clay, and then worked them in marble. In 1849, Palmer began exhibiting at the National Academy of Design in New York City, and in 1856, had a one-man show at the Church of the Divine Unity in New York City of marble relief medallions, which were called the Palmer Marbles. This event was ‘the most important exhibition of a single American sculptor’s work held to that date. Palmer’s reputation was made by the exhibition.’ (Baigell, 261) He also made money from his professional-appearing photographs of his sculpture, which had a good market both in America and Europe. However, he did not go to Europe until late in his career, and then stayed only a few months in Paris, which was unusual because most of his sculptor contemporaries were in Florence and Rome. Famous works by Palmer are The White Captive, 1859, and Indian Girl/The Dawn of Christianity, 1853-1856, both at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Both have subjects of innocent young white women, held against their will by Indians, and made lofty to many viewers by their reliance upon Christianity. Of the Neo-Classical sculptors, Palmer was likely the one who most frequently used religious themes in his work. Erastus Dow Palmer died in 1904. His son was artist Walter Launt Palmer.” That is probably more than you ever wanted to know about the artist, but there it is. One part of the description intrigues me; ” He also made money from his professional-appearing photographs of his sculpture.” I am beginning to think that Palmer might have been the daguerreotypist who actually produced this masterwork. I owe a huge thank you to Catharina Slautterback, curator of prints and photographs at the Boston Athenaeum and her colleague David Dearinger, Susan Morse Hilles Curator of Paintings and Sculpture. They were the first to identify the piece and later, Catharina graciously sent me information about Palmer, including an extant copy of a very early daguerreotype, circa 1842-43, showing Palmer in front of a very distinct painted backdrop. I have owned three dags with the same scene behind the sitter, made in that same period. One sitter was identified as “Reverend Charles Jones from Rome NY. Two other dag portraits appeared on eBay several years ago, and on one of the books was ” . . . . & Palmer”, the two operators at the time. Prior to that, I believe the Rome studio was operated by Charles Avery, professor of Chemistry at Hamilton College in nearby Clinton. Avery was possibly the first man to make a daguerreotype west of the Hudson River, having learned the daguerreian process from Samuel Morse when he visited him in the winter of 1839-40. Avery worked there in conjunction with one or two other men. I wish I had time to conduct further research on Palmer! His tremendous work of art is offered for