How to spot a carte de visite (late 1850s – c.1910)

National Media Museum blog

To help you date your old family photographs, so far I’ve shown you how to spot daguerreotypes, collodion positives and ferrotypes. Today we turn to the distinguishing features of the carte de visite – a 19th century collecting craze.

About cartes de visite

A carte de visite is a photograph mounted on a piece of card the size of a formal visiting card – hence the name. The format was patented by the French photographer Andre Adolphe Eugene Disdéri (1819 – 1889) in 1854.

Most professional portrait photographers of the 1850s took either daguerreotypes or collodion positives. With both processes, each picture was unique and multiple copies could only be made with difficulty – if at all.

People wanting larger portraits or more than one copy could have whole plate prints made from wet collodion negatives, but there was little demand for these except in the most…

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