The Daguerreotype Collection at the Museum fuer Kunst and Gewerbe, Hamburg

693 images from a prestigious German collection have been recently published on our database

Shortly after the foundation of the photographic collection at the end of the 19th century the perception of the medium changed in the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe (MKG). Photographs were no longer seen and acquired as a simple reference aid or substitute, but as independent art/craft works. Wilhelm Weimar (1857-1917), a graphic assistant illustrating the Museum’s inventory of objects from 1883, switched from pencil to camera by the end of the 1890s. Beside his own photographic activities he began to research the history of this medium, being especially interested in the early days of photography.
During the following years W. Weimar collected 275 daguerreotypes, particularly from the North German region, and carried out extensive research into their origin and photographers. He published his results in 1915, in his book “Die Daguerreotypie in Hamburg 1839-1860“. Weimar esteemed the craftsmanship and the creative qualities of these photographic incunabula and recognised their influence on later photography.


The Collection founded by Wilhelm Weimar
The collection founded by Weimar has continuously grown since that time. Today the MKG owns 708 daguerreotypes and numerous examples of unique pieces from the early years of photography. Though mainly from Hamburg studios, there are also pictures from England, the USA etc. Two especially impressive daguerreotypes by Hermann Biow (1804-1850) show the destruction of the Hamburg city centre after the enormous fire of May 1842 (PD2013.15 and PD2013.14). These images are not only regarded as the first photographs of Hamburg, but in the history of photography are also seen as the first ever news photographs. Only three of 46 plates of the fire ruins made by Biow still exist; the third one is in the Hamburg Museum (coming soon to Daguerreobase). In addition, there are four full plate portraits in the collection taken by Biow, Alexander von Humboldt (PD1913.82), Peter von Cornelius (PD1913.80), Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia (PD1917.332) and a father with his six sons (PD1911.42).
The MKG collection also includes one of the earliest animal portraits in photographic history: the portrait by Carl Ferdinand Stelzner (1805-1894) of his pet dog Ulla, taken about 1860 (PDo. J.222).  Stelzner’s work is represented, in addition, by numerous other portraits of the finest quality.

Image captions:
Herman Biow, Father with his six sons, 1845. MKG, Hamburg, PD1911.42
Herman Biow, View of the new House of Commerce  in Hamburg after the fire of 1842. MKG, Hamburg, PD2013.14