Napoleon III

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A hand-coloured 8.5 x 17 cm paper card stereoview of the French Emperor Napoleon III. The photo was made on 20 April 1858 by the photostudio Mayer Frères et Pierson, a partnership of the brothers Ernest Léopold and Louis Frédéric Mayer and Louis Pierson1. The stereoview was published by Alexis Gaudin et Frères. The back of the card contains a short biography of the Emperor and the names of the studio and publisher. The stereoview was a great success, and the press mentioned on 2 June 1858 that 20,000 copies were already sold2.

Napoleon III, born Charles-Louis Napoléon Bonaparte in 1808, was the nephew of the famous Napoleon I and served as the Emperor of France from 1852 to 1870. Initially rising to power as President of the French Second Republic in 1848, he established the Second Empire in 1852, declaring himself Emperor after a coup d’état. His reign was marked by efforts to modernise the French economy and rebuild Paris, with significant advancements in infrastructure, including the construction of railways and the modernisation of Paris under the direction of Baron Haussmann. Internationally, Napoleon III pursued an active foreign policy, involving France in the Crimean War, the Second Italian War of Independence, and the intervention in Mexico. However, his foreign endeavours were met with mixed success and ultimately contributed to his downfall. The disastrous Franco-Prussian War of 1870 led to his capture at the Battle of Sedan, the fall of the Second Empire, and the proclamation of the Third Republic. Napoleon III died in exile in England in 1873. His reign, though controversial, significantly impacted France’s social, economic, and urban landscape.

Alexis Gaudin
Alexis Gaudin (1816–1894) was a pioneer in the field of stereoscopy and one of the drivers of the “Stereoscopomania” in the 1850s. He came from a family of five brothers, three of whom were engaged in photography. Gaudin established his first business in 1843. He made daguerreotype portraits and manufactured daguerreotype plates. Gaudin acquired the magazine La Lumiere in 1851. The magazine became one the most important photography publications in France until it stopped in 1867. From 1855, and together with his brother Charles, he ran the publishing company Alexis Gaudin et frère with branches in Paris and London. The catalogue of the publishing house contained 1,500 stereoview titles in 1856.


  1. Pellerin, D. (2023) L’Emp’reur, sa femme et le p’tit prince, p. 161 ↩︎
  2. Ibid, p. 162 ↩︎

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