I came across this carte de visite (‘visiting card’) photograph of an elderly George Cruikshank while looking through a catalogue for a forthcoming London sale.
Carte de visite photographs were small, playing card sized, pictures that were originally designed to be distributed among family and friends. They became immensely popular during the 1860s and in addition to personal photographs, people also began to collect sets of pictures of notable political or society figures.
It was taken at the studio of John & Charles Watkins, 34 Parliament Street, London, and would originally been part of a set of eight images which were taken on each carte de visite plate. You can see an example of another photo from the same set here.
Cruikshank would probably have been around 60 when this photograph was taken. It’s interesting to note that, like many subsequent generations of men, he seems to have clung onto the fashions of his youth, and still sports the Regency-style mutton chop whiskers and dandified quiff (now badly receding) that he’d first cultivated in his 20s.
I also wonder about that desk he’s sitting at – Cruikshank had been given James Gillray’s old desk after the great caricaturist died in 1815, and he continued to work from it for the rest of his life. Could this really be a picture of the desk at which Gillray created all those great caricatures? Sadly, I suspect it’s probably just a prop that the Watkins brothers had lying around their studio, but you never know…