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Daguerreotype of the week: post-mortem

This is a post-mortem daguerreotype – a photograph taken of a dead person. Many people now think of these images as morbid or gruesome, but I think they’re especially poignant.

Back in the Daguerreian era (1839 to ~1858), death was more routine than visits to the photographer. $5 for a photograph was a lot of money back then, especially considering the large family sizes. In addition, daguerreotypes required long exposure times – some children could not sit motionless for two or more minutes. Grieving parents often had no photographs of their child alive, so when Death stole a child, they called the Daguerreotypist.

I imagine these were among the most cherished of daguerreotypes. Some contemporary collectors specialize in collecting post-mortems. (This one is quite delicate and tastefully done – there are some pretty shocking post-mortems out there.)

4 comments to Daguerreotype of the week: post-mortem

  • i had never heard of post-mortem daguerrotypes before, but i think that this one is very well done. very pretty.

  • Leslie

    Wow! This is a classy post-mortem daguerreotype.

  • Cassy

    I have always wanted a collection (or even just one!) of the post-mortem daguerreotypes, but I can NEVER find them! Where did you get this one? I love collections, and maybe I’m just naturally that odd, but I’d love these sort of things to be added to it. Thank you for sharing this one!!

  • Cassy – I’m glad you like it. Post-mortems are not easily found, and it’s very rare to just stumble upon one anymore. I bought this one online, and paid through the nose for it. I love it though…always have, always will.