Dead Child On a Sofa

Dead Child On a Sofa

c. 1855

Daguerreotype, applied color, quarter-plate

Image: 6.3 x 8.7 cm (2 1/2 x 3 7/16 in.); Case: 11.8 x 9.4 cm (4 5/8 x 3 11/16 in.); Mounted: 8.2 x 10.7 cm (3 1/4 x 4 3/16 in.); Matted: 50.8 x 61 cm (20 x 24 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 2002.35



This carefully staged daguerreotype of a dead child is an outstanding example of a very common subject: the postmortem portrait. Using the stylistic conventions of the day, the unidentified artist successfully created a visually pleasing scene, despite the nature of the image. Dressed in white with a bouquet of flowers on the chest, the child, seen in profile, reclines on an elaborately patterned sofa. Delicate flesh tones were added to the cheek and arm, suggestive of a healthy child sleeping. The high rate of infant mortality throughout the 19th century made this variety of portraiture common, satisfying the emotional need of the parents to have a lasting memory of a loved one.

See also

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

Is something not working on this page? Please email

Request a digital file from Image Services that is not available through CC0, a detail image, or any image with a color bar. If you have questions about requesting an image, please email