This portrait of Mathew Brady, his wife Juliet, and Brady’s sister Mrs. Haggerty was probably taken about the time of Brady’s marriage. Brady’s name has become synonymous in America with the daguerreotype and early American photography, to the point that early photographic images are almost automatically assumed to be by Brady. In the 1850s, he was at the midpoint of his career, having established himself both artistically and commercially as a photographer. By 1858 he would open a studio in Washington, to be managed by Alexander Gardner, possibly with money provided by Brady’s wife’s family.
Throughout his career Mathew Brady sought recognition as an artist. He advertised his skills as a maker of pleasing images and promised his clientele results that would rival “the highest efforts of the painter.” This daguerreotype exhibits the careful lighting, pleasing symmetry, and naturalness of expression that earned Brady the admiration of his contemporaries. It depicts him with his wife, Julia (left), and his sister, Ellen (right), in a pose that underscores their strong familial bond. When Ellen Haggerty was widowed a few years after this portrait was made, the Bradys—who had no children of their own—adopted Ellen’s young son, Thomas.
A lo largo de su carrera, Mathew Brady siempre aspiró a ser reconocido como artista. Promocionaba sus destrezas como creador de imágenes atractivas y prometía a su clientela resultados que rivalizarían con “los más elevados esfuerzos de un pintor”. Este daguerrotipo evidencia la iluminación cuidada, la simetría agradable y la naturalidad de expresión que le ganaron a Brady la admiración de sus contemporáneos. En él aparece el propio Brady con su esposa, Julia (izquierda), y su hermana, Ellen (derecha), en una pose que subraya los fuertes lazos familiares que los unían. Al enviudar Ellen Haggerty pocos años después de tomado este retrato, el matrimonio Brady, que no tenía hijos, adoptó a Thomas, hijo pequeño de Ellen.