'Carte de visite' (visiting card) for Flora and Julia Bradford, by Camille-Leon-Louis Silvy

'Carte de visite' (visiting card) for Flora and Julia Bradford, by Camille-Leon-Louis Silvy

'Carte de visite' (Visiting cards), for Flora and Julia Bradford
Camille-Leon-Louis Silvy
1860
Paris
Museum no. E.1027-1992

Photography was a novel and exciting development in Victorian days, and many people had studio photographs taken for ‘cartes de visite’ which could be presented when visiting friends, as introductions or with messages if the person was out. They were albumen prints made from glass negatives, attached to stiff card backing printed with the photographer’s name. ‘Cartes de visite’, the size of formal visiting cards, were patented in 1854 and produced in their millions during the 1860s when it became fashionable to collect them. Their subjects included scenic views, tourist attractions and works of art, as well as portraits. They were superseded in the late 1870s by the larger and sturdier ‘cabinet cards’ whose popularity waned in turn during the 1890s in favour of postcards and studio portraits.

The woman shown here is wearing a fashionably voluminous skirt. From the end of the 1850s up until about 1868-8, skirts were at their fullest. They were held out with layers of crinoline petticoats or with crinoline cages made of steel, cane or whalebone hoops. Towards the end of the 1860s skirt got narrower, with material draped up to create a bustle.