Anonymous CDV

Sometimes a CDV comes along that’s interesting enough even with no ID of the sitter and no ID of the photographer that they’re worth buying (to me). Here’s an example.

Anonymous handsome young man, 1870s/1880s CDV

As the seller noted, this is somewhat unusual for a CDV because it’s a frame-filling headshot. Most CDVs show full-length figures, or when they do show a headshot, they are heavily vignetted and the sitter’s face is relatively small in the image. Unlike the seller’s claim, though, I think the reason for this was not a limitation of the camera’s ability to focus closely – the studio portrait cameras used to shoot CDVs were more than capable of doing extremely tight headshots if so desired. The lenses were more the limiting factor, as earlier portrait lenses (usually of the Petzval configuration) had very shallow depth of field and produced a curved field of focus. This meant that anything out of the plane of focus (which was not a plane, but a hemispherical region) would be swirled and distorted. Not very flattering to a portrait subject – Salvador Dali and Picasso were still the better part of a century in the future. With the rise of the Rapid Rectilinear lens design, a much flatter field of focus could be achieved, thus making it possible to produce portraits that were close up yet still flattering.

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