The Library of Nineteenth-Century Photography

The Imperial family

The Imperial family

A carte-de-visite portrait of the Imperial couple impersonating bourgeois respectability.

Napoléon III understood the power of manipulating his public image through visual propaganda, and he firmly embraced the medium of photography. In spite of his string of mistresses, the Emperor presents himself here as the apogee of bourgeois respectability and moral probity, the archetypal family man.

The Second Empire coincided with a period of economic growth for France, with a concomitant rise in the aspirations and lifestyle of the middle classes. Keen to contemplate not only their own likenesses but also those of their social superiors, the bourgeoisie avidly collected cartes-de-visite of the Imperial family and displayed them in albums alongside images of their own friends, neighbours and relations, This blurring of the social distinctions reflected the new-found status and prosperity of the haute bourgeoisie, while simultaneously massaging their growing self-satisfaction.

Photographed by Disdéri of Paris.


Code: 124095
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© Paul Frecker 2018