Where are your Carte de visite portraits?

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Monsieur Léotard with his trapeze, checking his plimsole, c.1865, Disdéri & Co., Science Museum Group collection
Monsieur Léotard with his trapeze, checking his plimsole, c.1865, Disdéri & Co., Science Museum Group collection

One day, a French photographer named André Adolph Eugene Disdéri recognized there was a demand for the concurrent production of multiple identical prints. He soon discovered a new photographic process which would result in the production of eight negatives on one full size plate. These photos required no retouching which made them the preferred method for portraiture during the mid-19th century due to their inexpensive nature. Disdéri patented the method in 1854 and labeled this particular type of portrait as the Carte de visite, (a “Photograph mounted on a piece of card the size of a formal visiting card”measuring usually 2 ½ by 4 inches). It wasn’t long before Carte de visite photographs would spread throughout the United Kingdom and the United States. These portraits began to replace calling cards at social gatherings and their durability allowed them to easily be transported through the mail like postcards allowing family members and friends to exchange photographs. The congruent sizing of the Carte de visite caused a surge in the popularization of family albums and commercialization of Carte de visite albums featuring celebrities such as Abraham Lincoln in the United States and Queen Victoria in England.









J.E. Mayall, The Queen and Prince Consort Carte de visite
J.E. Mayall, The Queen and Prince Consort, Charles Nes Photography LLC New York- Paris

Abe Lincoln Carte de visite
‘Abe Lincoln’, c.1863, Matthew Brady, Science Museum Group collection

written by Kaitlan Norman

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