The Daguerreian Society

On this day (September 4) in the year 1841, the following article 
appeared in "The Spectator" (London):

                    PHOTOGRAPHIC MINIATURE.

INVITED lately by M. CLAUDET to witness his method of taking 
Photographic Miniatures, in operation at the Adelaide Gallery, we had an 
opportunity of ascertaining in what consists the difference between it 
and that of MR. BEARD at the Polytechnic Institution, and of comparing 
the results of each.  As the sun-limned portraits are become very 
popular, on account of the quickness and cheapness of the process and 
the force and minute fidelity of the resemblances, though they are 
unflattering to disagreeableness, an explanation of the two methods may 
be interesting.

   To render the Daguerreotype applicable to the purpose of portraiture, 
it was necessary to accelerate the action of light on the plate; for 
rapid as was the formation of the image, even five minutes was too long 
for any sitter to remain perfectly still.  This has been accomplished by 
various modifications of the chemical preparation of the plate, which it 
is needless to specify: suffice it to say, that the diminution of time 
required to form the image is in the ratio of seconds to minutes.  The 
process of MR. BEARD is the quicker of the two; but as M. CLAUDET takes 
two different views of the face at once in two cameras, and Mr. BEARD 
two in succession in the same, the time required to produce a couple of 
miniatures is about equal in both cases.
   The principal difference, and that which affects the likeness, is the 
means of transmitting the image formed by the pencils of light on to the 
plate.  M. CLAUDET accomplishes this by refraction, Mr. BEARD by 
reflection,--that is, M. CLAUDET, following the practice of DAGUERRE, 
transmits the rays of light radiating from the face of the sitter 
through a plano-convex lens; while Mr. BEARD avails himself of the  
improvement of an American optician, of which he has purchased the 
patent, and reflects the image on the plate by a concave mirror.  The 
distortion of the image in the refracting medium is less in amount than 
that of the reflector, and of the opposite kind,--that is, the image 
transmitted by the convex lens is larger in the centre and smaller at 
the circumference; while that of the concave reflector is smaller in the 
center and larger at the circumference: though the deviation in either 
case is so slight, owing to the smallness of the surface affected by the 
rays of light, that it is almost incalculable.  But the image 
transmitted through the lens is reversed laterally,--that is, the left 
side of the face appears to be the right in the miniature, and vice 
versa; so that if a sitter had the right eye closed the left would be 
closed in the miniature, and a person taken in the act of writing would 
appear to be left-handed. This reversal of the lineaments has an 
injurious effect on the likeness; much more so than the slight deviation 
from actual proportion in those taken by the reflector.  M. CLAUDET has 
a process of fixing the portrait which is peculiar to himself; but that 
adopted by Mr. BEARD has not been known to fail, as far as we can learn, 
though we have seen miniatures exposed to the light for several months 
without changing; the process of gilding them, however, effectually 
secures the plate from the influence of climate, and any but violent 
   On an attentive comparison of the two, we are bound to say that the 
Photographic Miniatures taken at the Polytechnic Institution by Mr. 
BEARD'S process are superior to those taken by M. CLAUDET at the 
Adelaide Gallery, in fidelity of resemblance, delicacy of marking, and 
clearness of effect; in a word, they are more pleasing and artistical: 
the shadows are denser and the lineaments less defined in those produced 
by M. CLAUDET; though these objections are less important than the 
reversal of the countenance and figure.
   At the Adelaide Gallery we saw two or three cancelled miniatures of 
persons who had very red faces, which looked black and heavy; from which 
we infer that the redness of the lips contributes to give to the mouth 
the dark tint that, added to the strong shadow between and below the 
lips, makes this feature look larger and coarser than in life, at least 
I the instance of persons with full and prominent lips.  The grave look 
and formal attitude commonly assumed by the sitters, being faithfully 
reflected in the miniature portrait, the sombre effect of the strong 
shadows and colourless light of the photograph is increased to an 
unpleasing degree of sternness, occasionally amounting to a 
repulsiveness, and sometimes even falsifying the likeness; an animated 
expression, therefore, is essential to the production of  a pleasing 
portrait, and the most vivacious countenances appear to the best 
advatage.  In every case, however, the want of brilliancy in the eyes, 
and the strong shadows beneath the nose and about the mouth, cause the 
physical peculiarities of form to predominate in an exaggerated degree.  
The apparatus used to steady the head gives a fixed and constrained air 
to the sitter; and it would be well if this could be dispensed with, 
that persons might assume their habitual posture and be at ease.  The 
great pains taken to place the sitter and to satisfy the parties with 
the likeness, by taking fresh ones if the first is defective, indicates 
a praiseworthy willingness to please.  The photographs may best be 
copied through a powerful lens, not only for the sake of enlarging their 
size, but for bringing out the details of form and lightening the 
intense shadows; the mere addition of colour to the copy will effect a 
marvelous improvement, and may, perhaps, render a fresh portrait painted 
from the sitter unnecessary; the photograph alone will satify but in few 

(Cited from a reprint in William Welling "Photography in American: The 
Formative Years, 1839-1900" [New Mexico: University of New Mexico Press, 
1987] pg. 26)
Posted for your enjoyment.       Gary W. Ewer      

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