Historic Miniature Photography of a Different Variety

Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, Still Life, 1837

“We desire to bring together all the most interesting facets offered by Daguerre’s invention under the four rubrics of curiosity, usefulness for the arts, quickness of understanding and usefullness for the sciences.”

-Francois Arago, report before the Academy of Sciences, Paris, 1839

Toy Photography and the photography of toys are two very different things. Toy Photography is the photography of toys, miniatures, trinkets, in scenic environments to tell a story, or relay an idea. The photography of toys is simply that – straight forward photography of an item or group of items with the intention of showing off that item in itself, and not creating a larger idea around it.

There are images, sometimes classed by art historians as still lives. This is exciting because some are very early photography of small scale objects. I left them out of my still life post however as their artistic value is in their documentation of artistic objects, and they are not art pieces within themselves.

Daguerre’s process, published in 1839 was praised for its applications within science and art. These early experiments, often grouped within the category of still life are straight forward object studies, documentation of direct surroundings, scientific tools, military equipment, etc.

Giorgio Sommer, Bronze and Terracotta Figures, 1875
Giorgio Sommer, Bronze and Terracotta Figures, 1875

This process was quickly applied to documentation, inventory and thus a form of preservation of artifacts. One such photographer in this distinction, Giorgio Sommer, photographed both the Vatican museum collection, as well as the casts of people and animals found at Pompeii. Notably, for the sake of this blog, are Sommer’s images of miniature plaster replicas he produced and photographed of Pompeian artifacts (pictured above).

La Table Servie (the set table), Nicéphore Niépce, 1823 – 1829
La Table Servie (the set table), Nicéphore Niépce, 1823 – 1829
Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, Still Life, 1837
Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, Still Life, 1837

Going back further however, in Daguerre and Niepce’s experimentation while developing the medium, we see examples of still life dating back to the 1820s, and figural items used within the medium at least as far back as 1837.

While the earliest example of Toy Photography I’ve found is from 1898, the photography of miniatures itself can therefore be dated back to the development of the invention of photography.

Sources:

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