Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


In 1807, Charles Fraser lauded fellow miniature artist Edward Greene Malbone's ability to produce "such striking resemblances, that they will never fail to perpetuate the tenderness of friendship, to divert the cares of absence, and to aid affection in dwelling on those features and that image which death has forever wrested from it." The explanations traditionally given for the commissioning of portraits--the perpetuation of family or institutional memory--correspond with Fraser's comments. Yet these explanations rarely incorporate the social context: the communities in which images were produced and the individual, familial, or group meanings of portraits.;"Facing Philadelphia: The Social Functions of Silhouettes, Miniatures, and Daguerreotypes, 1760-1860" explores some of the forces that shaped a century of portrait patronage in one of America's most prosperous urban centers. My research reveals that different sectors of Philadelphia's elites had decided preferences for specific types of portraits. These patterns suggest that production and patronage were rooted in the meanings that portraits had for certain groups, meanings that were connected to social, economic, religious, and political conditions in Philadelphia.;Whether stark silhouettes for Quakers or individual artists' miniatures for the established mercantile elite, the appeal of small-scale portraits was partially due to their appearance and to their traditional desirability as gifts. Novelty, price, and availability helped create demand for daguerreotypic likenesses. Yet local scientific interest, Quaker mores regarding material life, and the desire for engravings and miniatures based on photographic images also determined daguerreotype patronage. The connections among the different sectors of the art market also suggest ways in which the distinctions between "high" and "low" art become blurred upon closer examination.;In their portrait choices, Philadelphians extended long-term cultural practices and modified others in ways that embodied local needs as well as incorporated broader national and international trends. They used small-scale portraits in particular ways, adapting widely available forms to specific, socially derived needs. Through their commission and use of portraits, Philadelphians simultaneously crafted their identities and shaped art markets.



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