The Cabinet Format

In 1866, Frederick Richard Window, a London photographer who had introduced the Diamond Cameo Carte de Visite two years earlier, put forward the idea of a larger format for portrait photography. The proposed format was a photographic print mounted on a sturdy card measuring 41/4 inches by 61/2 inches. (roughly 11cm x 17cm). The new format was called the Cabinet Portrait, presumably because a large photograph on a stout card could be displayed on a wooden cabinet or similar piece of furniture. The Scottish photographer George Washington Wilson (1823-1893) had produced 'cabinet' sized landscape views as early as 1862, but F.R.Window had adopted the large format specifically for portraiture.

Window believed the larger dimensions of the 'cabinet print' (4 inches by 51/2 inches or approximately 10.2 cm x 10.2 cm x 14.1 cm) would enable the professional photographer to demonstraste his technical and artistic skill and produce portraits of a higher quality than the small cdv would allow.

The cabinet photograph increased in popularity as the demand for carte de visite portraits fell. Much larger than the cdv, the size of the cabinet format made it more suitable for group and family portraits.


Carte de visite portrait of a bald headed gentleman by Mayall's Brighton studio.On the right is the same portrait in the larger cabinet format. The cabinet portrait was mounted on a sturdy card which often ,as in this example, carried the name and address of the studio in gold lettering against a black background. [ SEE ILLUSTRATION AT RIGHT ]


Cabinet portrait by J E Mayall of 91 Kings Road, Brighton

Advertisements for the 'New Cabinet Portraits' appeared in Sussex newspapers at the end of 1867. A single cabinet photograph would cost 3 shillings (15 p.) and a dozen copies could be had for 15 shillings. (75 p.). By 1877, the studio of C. Hawkins of Preston Street, Brighton would make the first copy of a cabinet portrait for 2s 6d (121/2 p) while a dozen copies would cost 12 shillings. (60 p.)



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