Unidentified photographer (U.S.): A Mourning Scene
Daguerreotype, sixth-plate (2.75 x 3.25 inches), circa 1845
The Victorians had elaborate rules for mourning, including specific modes of dress for women at various stages following the death of a relative. While no documentation has survived along with this image, the poses and the absence of the children's mother leave little doubt that she has died.
The strongly directional lighting (presumably from a window) indicates this daguerreotype was taken in a private residence, rather than in a studio. Daguerreotype portraits were only made in homes in extraordinary circumstances-- most often, when a person was seriously ill or when a post-mortem picture was desired. Perhaps this image was made as a companion to a memorial picture of the deceased. It is certainly a powerful and moving image of a young family's grief.