IMPORTANT DAGUERREOTYPES FROM THE STANLEY B. BURNS, MD, COLLECTION
Although head wraps had been worn for centuries, the headscarf took on new meaning in late 18th century Spanish-controlled Louisiana when the so-called ‘tignon law’ was introduced. Women of color (both free and enslaved) were ordered to cover their hair to signal being of impure or African descent. Elaborate and often colorful head scarfs, however, quickly became the fashion rather than a stigma, and they have been a sign of cultural heritage and resistance in the ensuing decades.
This daguerreotype has long been attributed to the New Orleans photographer Felix Moissenet (born circa 1814), who entered the daguerreian profession as early as 1843. City directories and advertisements located Moissenet’s studio at various locations in New Orleans and New York City from 1849 to 1861. Although Moissenet occasionally partnered with other photographers, he is not known to have been associated with ‘J. H. Clark,’ the name stamped on the velvet lining of the present case. John Hawley Clarke (1831-1914) was a very successful daguerreotypist and ambrotypist, who cut his teeth with Marcus Aurelius Root in Philadelphia before settling in New Orleans. Clarke’s studio is listed at 101 Canal Street from 1861 to 1864 and, following the Civil War, again from 1868 through the 1870s. He was renowned for his photographs of children and for expert coloration of his plates.
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