Carte de Visite (CDV): Origins

Figure 1.--Here we see an early André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri CDV. He began taking portraits of important public figures, in this case, British colonial official and diplomat Lord Elgin. We do not know if Lord Elgin and his son were in Paris for the portrait or Disdéri had a London studio, probably not at the time because he only opend his Paris studio in 1854. . The portrait is undated but because we know when Victor Alexander was born (1849), we can tell the portrait was taken about 1855. Of course that does not mean when the CDV here was printed. With negatives prints can be made multiple times. Note the charateristic sharp corners of earky CDVs. 'Déposé' means Deposit, but here it is meant to mean 'patented'.

The origins of the CDV, as the name suggests, are French. The French a major role in the early history of photography. The CDV first appeared in France, although the precise date is not entirely clear. One source indicates that the carte-de-viste or CDV was first introduced in 1851. I have been unable to confirm that. Another source indicates that a French photographer, André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri, introduce the CDV about 1854. [Mace] I give more creedence to this report because we have an actual name. Disdéri had been a Daguerreotypist in Brest and Nîmes who opened aaris studio whivh offered the CDVs he developed (1854). It soon became one of the most prestigious studios in Paris. His CDVs were not just for clients who wanted multiple copies of portraits for friends and family. They were also in an era before photolithography, movies, and television for collects to obtain images of famous people. We note an early Disdéri CDV taken about 1855 of Lord Elgin and his son. It is one of the earliest in our archive. You can see why Disdéri was so respected with the excellent posing and quality furniture in the set. He did receive a patent at this time. His patent was for a camera which could expose 8 negatives on an 8 x 10 inch plate. His CDVs were not an immedite success. A portrait of Emperor Napoleon III sems to have been the turning point in popularizing the CDV. The CDV may have been first introduced in the United States in 1859. We do not yet have details as to just who did this. Existing studios had to buy new equipment and train staff. The advantages of the albumen process and CDV caused this to happen rather quickly. We do not notice large numbers of American CDVs until about 1862. This of course was the Civil War Era (1861-65). Few introductions were so timely. The soldiers going off to war wanted photographs of their loved ones and the family wanted a portrait of their father, sons, and brothers. This no doubt stimulated the photographic industry. And CDVs as it was based on a negative, unlike Dags and Ambro, could be reproduced in multiple copies. they could also easily and safely be sent through the mail. The low cost of a CDV was another stimulus. The result was a vast expansion in the number of photographic images during the 1860s.


Mace, O. Henry. Collector's Guide to Early Photographs (Krause)


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Created: 4:59 AM 5/23/2016
Last updated: 4:59 AM 5/23/2016