Richard Wagner Daguerreotype


This enlargement print of the sixteenth size daguerreotype plate (1.375 by 1.625 inches) may be the highest quality reproduction possible.  In 2021 this daguerreotype will be examined and scanned by the George Eastman Museum technicians after which perhaps we will have a better image.

“The technical quality of the daguerreotype is not very high. It is slightly out of focus, tonally flat, and overexposed. This puzzled me since a studio photographer in the mid-1850s, capable of working both the daguerreotype and collodion processes (see the label for Turnau’s offerings) should have been able to produce a better daguerreotype. However, copying daguerreotypes presented unusual difficulties, and did not always equal the studio standard of direct camera work. The characteristics of this daguerreotype are commensurate with copy daguerreotype work.”

– Grant Romer

In professor’s Wilhelm Weimar’s 1915 publication, “Die Daguerreotypie in Hamburg”, Rudolph Turnau & Co., Neuerwall No. 27, Hamburg, is mentioned with the date May, 1855.


I draw the viewer’s attention to the subject’s right side where there appears to be a tiny tuff of neck hair. And on both sides of his face there appears, faintly to be sure, what appears to be sideburns which we known from later images extend below the mandible to the neck hair. With a high degree of clarity the viewer can note other aspects that are identical to those of his known photographic images: the philtral columns; labial commissures; cupid’s bow; and lower lip.

The nose is perfect; his right ear is good; the head hair is, at the very least, consistent. The eyebrows are unclear to me. The way they lay, however, is excellent.

Please note the bow tie in the first drawing, to be compared to the bow tie of the daguerreotype image. Generally, men make their ties the same way day after day, a lifelong repetition. Lastly, consider his vest, its construction, lay, and relationship to the rounded suit coat lapel, all favorably comparing to later images.

The daguerreian caught the dimple, yet we see no evidence of the dimple in Wagner’s later photographic portraits. How is it possible that the daguerreian caught it, but later photographers did not? The answer may rest with the vicissitudes of 19th Century photography.

Very few people realize that the first photographic methodology, the daguerreotype, is the supreme quality of photographs. There is no higher quality photograph than the daguerreotype. I quote Grant Romer: ”The daguerreotype is the Rolls Royce of photographs, and the Rolls Royce is the daguerreotype of automobiles.”

A well-made daguerreotype can seem to have magical qualities. Highly polished silver is the best reflector known. When holding a daguerreotype, and moving it ever so slightly in order to get the perfect light reflection, an occasionally heard comment is that the viewers felt themselves “ transported” to that time and place.

Another point deserves mention here. One can, with ease, using the latest computer technology, scan the daguerreotype plate. Or one can use traditional photographic reproduction methods. No matter. It is impossible to perfectly reproduce the reflection of the daguerreotype plate. No matter the quality of the resultant print, it cannot capture the clarity, the quality, of the original.

The daguerreian caught the dimple. It seems to me entirely reasonable that later photographic images, all of which used lesser quality methodologies, did not.

Please note what appears to be a chin cleft or dimple in the 1843 painting of Richard Wagner by Ernst August Becker, the 1850 pencil drawing by Ernst Bendikt Kietz, and the 1850 drawings by Rudolf Lehman.



The hands you see are those of Grant Romer.


Kaplan Collection Known Images
Probably March or April, 1844 1843
Probably March or April, 1844 1850
Probably March or April, 1844 1850
Probably March or April, 1844 1871
Probably March or April, 1844 1880
Probably March or April, 1844 1881




It appears that Hamburg daguerreian, Rudolph Turnau, was not the original maker. Rather, he made one or more copies of the likely 1844 Hamburg original.  Perhaps he made 16 copies.  If any other examples are extant it is likely they will be in Germany. Perhaps if this image of young Richard Wagner is publicized in Germany, one or more additional copy daguerreotypes will come to the surface. It is even possible that the original is extant! Both original and copies would be sitting unrecognized in private or public collections of daguerreotypes, or merchants’ inventory.



The following video has been produced by Bob Schmitt, the co-founder of Biometrica, Inc, which provides biometric facial identification security to casinos. All individuals who enter a Biometrica-covered casino are unobtrusively photographed, and compared to a large database of persons who for different reasons are not welcome patrons. He is one of the pioneers and leaders of the biometric facial identification industry.




“When first it dawned on human wisdom that the same thing breathed in animals as in mankind, it appeared too late to avert the curse which, ranging ourselves with beasts of prey, we seemed to have called upon us through the taste of animal food: disease and misery of every kind, to which we did not see mere vegetable-eating men exposed. The insight thus obtained led further to the conciousness of a deep-seated guilt in our earthly being; it moved those fully seized therewith to turn aside from all that stirs the passions, through total abstinence from animal food. To these wise men* the mystery of the world unveiled itself as a restless tearing into pieces, to be restored to restful unity by nothing save compassion.”


– Richard Wagner

*Plutarch, Hesiod, Seneca, etc.

October 28, 2017


As Lincoln is to the United States, Richard Wagner is to Germany. He is their greatest son. This copy daguerreotype of young Ricard Wagner, will surely be, to Germany, the holy grail.