Antoine Claudet

Antoine François Jean Claudet (1797 - 1867) was born in Lyon, in France. Before taking up photography as his main profession, Claudet was in the glass business of his family.

After mastering the techniques of Daguerre and receiving one of the first licenses to practice, he opened a daguerreotype studio in London. During this time he helped Charles Wheatstone by producing some of the first stereoviews for Wheatstone's reflecting mirror stereoscope.

Claudet was an ardent supporter of stereoscopic photography in which he saw a much more perfect reflection of the real world:

"The stereoscope is the general panorama of the world. It brings to us in the cheapest and most portable form, not only the picture, but the model, in a tangible shape, of all that exists in the various countries of the globe; it introduces us to scenes known only from the imperfect relations of travellers; it leads us before the ruins of antique architecture, illustrating the historical records of former and lost civilizations, the genius, taste and power of past ages, with which we have become as familiarised as if we had visited them."

In October 1851 Claudet starts advertising stereoscopic daguerreotype portraits that he is taking in his studio in London. The portraits are to be seen "through the binocular instrument of Professor Wheatstone". Within a month he adds that the instrument had been "invented by Professor Wheatstone, and modified by Sir David Brewster". And in April of 1852 he mentions that both "Professor Wheatstone's reflecting and refracting stereoscopes, and Sir David Brewster's lensicular (sic!) stereoscopes, can be had at Mr. Claudert's photographic establishment".

 

To better describe the effect of a stereoscopic picture (which would be more expensive due to the need to take two daguerreotypes instead of one), Claudet uses an analogy with art.

"Two portraits, simultaneously taken at different angles by means of a double camera obscura, exhibit in the Stereoscope a single picture, producing by this coincidence, the most wonderful effect, and having the exact appearance of a real statue."

In November of 1851 Claudet announces that he is selling the daguerreotype stereoviews of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. It was these stereoviews of Claudet that earned the admiration of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the Exhibition. The advertisement for Claudet soon after the Great Exhibition was over read:

"These wonderful productions represent the various parts of the Crystal Palace, with all the objects exhibited in it, not as flat pictures, but as solid tangible models. The illusion is so extraordinary, that no words can convey an idea of the splendid result of this application of Photography to the brilliant discovery of Prof. Wheatstone on binocular vision."

"The Stereoscopic views of the Great Exhibition, which may be had in sets of four, present the most complete illusion of actuality, distance and relief."

Another newspaper described Claudet's stereoviews as follows:

"M. Claudet has a number of views of the interior of the Exhibition, and, though but almost 2 1/2 inches square, the vast extent of the building, every column, girder, and article exhibited, can be seen standing out in its place, and with as perfect solidity and distinctness as teh very Crystal Palace and things themselves. Every piece of sculpture is there as sculpture: the tree stands out and shows the glass beyond, between every branch and leaf; it seems no picture, but a model beyond belief for its wonderful accuracy and comprehensiveness of detail."

These same stereoviews were also sent by Claudet to the Russian Emperor Nicholas I and earned him a present from the Tsar: a diamond-encrusted ring.

Later in his life Claudet invented several types of stereoscopes himself. One of those variations was a precursor to cinematography. Here is how a newspaper described it in 1853:

"M. Claudet has constructed an ingenious variation on the ordinary stereoscope, by placing under it two plates not perfectly identical. In one, for example, there are two men fighting: one strikes, the other wards. The companion plate contains precisely the same men; with this difference in their attitude, that the one who struck, now wards, and the aggressor stands on the defensive. In looking at this group, and at the same time rapidly moving to and fro a small slide behind the glasses, which covers now one eye and now another, the two impressions run into each other and produce the appearance of an active sparring match. Again, a needle-woman, represented on one plate with her needle in her work, and in the other with her thread drawn out to its full length, appears, when the slide is shifted to and fro, to be industriously sewing."

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