Mathew Brady's daguerreotypes at the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan

Objective: The article considers five daguerreotypes created by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady and currently held at the Instituto Valencia de Don Juan in Madrid. The authors describe the content of the daguerreotypes, identify their formal features and weigh their importance in the history of photography.

Methodology: The authors conducted an in-depth analysis of each daguerreotype in the form of an ad hoc archival description following the international standard ISAD(G), in order to make retrieving information on the content and formal characteristics a more feasible undertaking. The daguerreotypes were also photographed and the images were digitised for the purpose of illustrating the study.

Results: The analysis covers the five categories authorship, artefact, content, sociocultural importance and institution, and it offers these details: the author, Matthew Brady is judged to be a seminal figure in the history of photography; the artefacts themselves are considered works of art and unique museum pieces because of their quality; their content is exceptional because all are portraits of a single child, Guillermo de Osma, and because children were generally an uncommon subject for photographers in the period in question; their sociocultural importance lies in the fact that they are the first photographic models in the history of photography and constitute an addition to the list of known works by Brady currently recorded in Europe (two in the archives of Europeana, and twelve on the Daguerrobase website); finally, the Instituto de Valencia de Don Juan has become the centre holding the greatest number of Brady's daguerreotypes in Europe.