The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

Empress Eugénie with the Prince Imperial

Empress Eugénie with the Prince Imperial

A carte-de-visite portrait of the Empress Eugénie with her only child, Napoleon Eugène Louis Bonaparte, The Prince Imperial (1856-1879).

The Empress's beauty and elegance were well documented in innumerable paintings, especially by her favourite portraitist, Winterhalter. A Roman Catholic and a conservative, her influence countered any liberal tendencies in her husband’s policies.

The photographer is André Adolphe Eugène Disdéri (1819-1889), who was possibly the inventor of the carte-de-visite format. He received a patent for the process from the French government on 27 November 1854, and was certainly responsible for popularising the craze. Remembered for having been the first to establish photography as a business as well as an artistic craft, his contemporaries considered him the outstanding portrait photographer in France. Although at the height of his career he was reputed to be earning a phenomenal £48,000 a year, in January 1872 he filed for bankruptcy. He subsequently found new backers and re-established a studio, at first in Paris and then at various addresses in Nice during the 1880s. For some reason he left the agreeable climate of Nice and returned to Paris around 1888 or 1889. He died on 4 October 1889 at the age of seventy, in the Hôpital Sainte-Anne, an institution for indigents, alcoholics and the mentally ill.

Code: 122677
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