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What it is:
Carte de visite (CDV) measuring approx. 2.5 x 4 inches.
What I know about it:
Photographer is Antoine Claudet. More on him below. Otherwise unidentified.
Antoine Claudet was a significant early photographer, born in France in 1797, and trained by none other than Louis Daguerre, the inventor of the daguerreotype photo. After moving to England, he set up shop in London in 1841, becoming the first practitioner of the daguerreotype process in London. He received a royal warrant (“Photographer to the Queen”) as well as honors from Napoleon III. In addition to the photographs themselves, he was known for his innovations in the photographic process (notably experimenting with chemicals to speed up the process, and discovering that red light could safely be used in the darkroom) and inventions (a folding stereoscopic photo viewer, for instance). Examples of his photos can be seen here. As for dating this photo, he moved into the Regent Street location in 1851, received the royal warrant in 1853, and died in 1867. So unless somebody has a better suggestion for reading these clues, I would guess that this photo is from 1853-1867. (I wondered if his studio might have continued operating after his death, but it apparently burned down a month later.) By the way, there’s a tiny printed logo on the back reading “W & B Diamond Cameo Portrait”. I believe this would be the paper manufacturer or printer (where the photographer would have obtained the card stock pre-printed with his studio information). Interestingly, it was my understanding that a diamond cameo portrait was a set of four cameo portraits printed together in a diamond pattern, such as these. Instead we have a single image here. But it is in an oval cameo shape, making me wonder if it was intended for a diamond cameo layout. As for the lady here, I have no idea who she is. But I’m fascinated by the composition of this image, the way the crown-like braid above her face is balanced by the chunky ropes of jewelry below it, effectively framing and presenting her face to the viewer’s eye.