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'Sergeant Major in the Coldstream Guards'

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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'Sergeant Major in the Coldstream Guards'

by Antoine Claudet
quarter-plate daguerreotype, 1842-1844
4 1/4 in. x 3 1/4 in. (107 mm x 82 mm) image size
Purchased, 2017
Photographs Collection
NPG x199971

Artistback to top

  • Antoine Claudet (1797-1867), Photographer and inventor. Artist associated with 43 portraits.

This portraitback to top

In 1841, Claudet established a studio on the roof of the Adelaide Gallery, behind St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London (opposite the National Portrait Gallery). This is where this portrait of an unknown man – who is probably a Colour Sergeant of the Coldstream Guards – was made. Claudet positioned the sitter in front of a painted background, making this one of the earliest examples to feature a studio backdrop.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Photographs, 2018, p. 16 Read entry

    Named after its French inventor, Louis Daguerre, the Daguerreotype was the first photographic process to be announced to the public, in 1839. Each Daguerreotype is a unique, direct positive image on a highly polished, silvered copper plate. Early examples, like this one, were left-right reversed. Trained by Daguerre himself, Antoine Claudet (1797-1867) was among the first to practice Daguerreotype portraiture in England. In 1841 he established a portrait studio in London, on the roof of the Adelaide Gallery, behind St Martin-in-the-Fields Church, across the road from the National Portrait Gallery’s current premises. This is where this portrait of an unknown soldier - who is most likely a Colour Sergeant of the Coldstream Guards - was made. He must have been a man of means, since to have a Daguerreotype portrait made, especially at this large size, was expensive. Claudet positioned the sitter in front of a painted background, making this one of the earliest known photographs with a studio backdrop.

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Events of 1842back to top

Current affairs

Edwin Chadwick publishes his damning report, Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Poor, which details the shocking living conditions of the urban poor and prompts government to take a new interest in public health issues.
A year-long depression and the rejection of the Chartist petition leads to riots, with workers striking in the Midlands, Lancashire, Yorkshire, and parts of Scotland.

Art and science

Mudie's Lending Library opens, becoming one of the largest circulating libraries in the period. Made popular by the otherwise high cost of books, it exerts a great influence over literature; both by maintaining the more costly 'three decker' novel structure, and acting as moral censor.
Richard Owen, the English biologist, comparative anatomist and palaeontologist, coins the term 'dinosaur', combining the Greek words for 'formidable' and 'reptile'.


Treaty of Nanjing, which allows China to trade with Britain and lends Hong Kong to the British crown for 150 years. In Afghanistan, the Anglo-Afghan war ends as the British abandon Kabul, withdrawing to India and losing most of their garrison force in the operation with only one member, Dr William Brydon, surviving.

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