ANONYMOUS AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER | CHARLES SHERWOOD STRATTON (GENERAL TOM THUMB)
Property from the Collection of Marc and Mona Klarman
ANONYMOUS AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER
CHARLES SHERWOOD STRATTON (GENERAL TOM THUMB)
half-plate daguerreotype, hand-tinted, sealed, cased, late 1840s or early 1850s
This rare portrait of the young Stratton exhibits a phenomenal level of detail: the buttons and the fabric of the standing sitter's waistcoat appear extremely clear, as are the rings on Stratton's hands. The cheeks of both sitters has been expertly hand-tinted with a pale rosy hue.
Overall, this plate is clean and legible. As is visible in the catalogue illustration, there are a handful of tiny-to-small rust-colored spots with halos. A very thin border of tarnish follows the edges of the brass mat. This plate has a modern seal. There are remnants of bright red wax on the reverse of the plate.
The brown floral-stamped leather case is rubbed, with occasional flaking of the leather at the edges and corners.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.
This half-plate daguerreotype shows a handsomely-dressed young Charles Sherwood Stratton (1838-1883), better known to history as the P. T. Barnum creation ‘General Tom Thumb.’ An early review in The Tribune described Stratton as ‘. . . by far the most wonderful specimen of a man that ever astonished the world. The idea of a young gentleman, eleven years old, weighing less than an infant at six months, is truly wonderful. He is lively, talkative, well proportioned, and withal quite a comical chap’ (quoted in Eric Lehman Becoming Tom Thumb: Charles Stratton, P. T. Barnum and the Dawn of American Celebrity, p. 22). When the diminutive Stratton was ‘discovered’ and made his debut at Barnum’s American Museum in New York on 8 December 1842, however, he was in fact just four years old. A celebrity of international renown, it has been estimated that in his more than three decade career Stratton gave at least 20,000 performances globally, meeting such notable figures as Queen Victoria and President Abraham Lincoln.
In photographs from the 1840s-50s, Stratton was often posed standing on chairs, likely both for size comparison and ease of photographing, and daguerreotypes of similar composition are in collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Harvard Theatre Collection, Cambridge, and The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City. In the aforementioned photographs, Stratton wears similar finger rings as are visible in the present plate.
The identity of the standing gentleman is unknown. When this daguerreotype was originally acquired, it was postulated that he was Charles’ father Sherwood Edward Stratton. It has subsequently been suggested that the individual was one of Charles’ tutors.