I have a small but growing and (to me at least) very interesting collection of cartes de visite of Victorian clergymen. I have only written about one of these so far – Hugh Stowell Brown’s carte de visite – you can click on the link to read about it. That particular very rare, possibly unique, card, was reproduced (with my permission) in Wayne Clarke’s excellent new biography A Ready Man, Hugh Stowell Brown, preacher, activist, friend of the poor. It is a very characterful and impressive image.
This image of James Martineau is also very characterful, although I suspect is not quite as direct a link with the great philosopher, theologian and Unitarian minister as H.S. Brown’s carte de visite was with him. A carte de visite was essentially a calling card although they became highly collectable in their day. This image of James Martineau was published by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company which specialised, as their name suggests, in stereoscopic views. Founded in London 1854 it sold stereo views and viewing equipment at the height of popular interest in 3D views of the world, as well as providing all manner of photographic and allied equipment. In the 1860s they diversified into the new craze for cartes de visite and were very successful in meeting the considerable market demand for them.
Reverse of the James Martineau carte de visite
This image of James Martineau dates from about 1873 or 1874. Born in Norwich in 1805, by this time Martineau was principal of Manchester New College, then located in Gordon Square, London. He was already a figure of some significance nationally although his fame was to increase as he got older. However, I don’t think this card would ever have been used by James Martineau, I suspect it would have been sold by the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company as a collectable celebrity image. James Martineau’s own carte de visite was published by market leaders Elliot & Fry. He seems to have had at least two cards made by them: one in the 1860s and another about a decade later in the 1870s. Examples of both of these cards are held by the National Portrait Gallery in London, amongst the dozen portraits they hold of Martineau to this day:
This picture: James Martineau by Elliott & Fry, albumen carte-de-visite, 1870s NPG x197538, © National Portrait Gallery, London (Creative Commons license)
The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company portrait resembles very closely the picture in the National Portrait Gallery. However, the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company picture is taken from a different angle and gives a different profile.
At first glance it seems certain that both pictures were taken at the same sitting. Perhaps Elliot & Fry sold some of the images they took to the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company? In both pictures Martineau is wearing an identical suit and an identically positioned watch chain. In fact everything looks the same except the button on his jacket is in a different position. But there does appear to be another subtle difference – close inspection of Martineau’s tie suggests that they are not the same piece of clothing at all. The London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company photograph dates from after 1873 (when the company won the Prize Medal for Portraiture at the Vienna Exhibition as the reverse of the card shows) and before 1875 (when they won a subsequent prize medal which they added to the reverse of their cards). Martineau’s appearance on both pictures is so similar that it is impossible to imagine that they were not taken very closely together. So on the same day or in a couple of days in 1874 did James Martineau turn up for two different photographic sittings at the two studios, changing his tie between sittings? Either way there are two sources for cartes de visite associated with the great man. One is the series produced by Elliot & Fry and the other is the London Stereoscopic & Photographic Company picture of which I am glad to have a specimen.
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