PAM46: 1856c Museum Quality Important Crimean War Photograph Superbly Tinted 9th Plate Ambrotype By (John) Dempsey (Bristol) of a Sergeant Wearing 2 Crimean Medals (Including the Sevastopol Plate) With Carved Stone From The Siege Wall of Sevastopol (Came with the photograph and likely a treasured keepsake from this very officer). The sitter Bears a Strong Resemblance to Sergeant William Christie of the 4th Battalion of The Royal Artillery.
Medal 1: The Turkish Medal: It was issued by Sultan Abdülmecid I of the Ottoman Empire to allied military personnel involved in the Crimean War of 1854–56. There are three different issues of this medal for those issued to British, French, or Sardinian personnel. The medal was designed by James Robertson. The medal he proudly displays has the dark crimson and green edging and is of British issue as identified by the suspender (the others were suspended on a loop).
Medal 2: The British Crimean Campaign Medal: Tinted pale blue and displaying 3 of the 4 available campaign honour bars (Five bars were authorised for the medal: Alma, Inkerman, Azoff, Balaklava and Sebastopol. Because Azoff was only issued to Naval and Marine personnel, the maximum awarded to one man was four)
Rank: 3 Bar Chevron indicate that the subject was a NCO Sergeant.
Regiment: Unknown but the presence of the whip in his hands indicates that he could be part of the cavalry (Hussar or more likely a Dragoon). An artillery regiment is also a possibility (he appears to be wearing an chained cannon on his button hole) however with the sitter displaying a strong resemblance to Sergeant William Christie or the 4th Battalion, Royal Artillery. The facings are a dark colour, likely blue. If this is a cavalry officer, the possibilities are the 1st kings – 1 honour; 1st Royal – 2 honours; 2nd Royal North – 2 honours; 4th Royal Irish – 2 honours; 8th Kings Royal Irish – 4 honours; 11th Prince Albert’s – 4 honours (all blue facings). As the subject has 3 battle bars on his medal, this rules out the 1st, 2nd regiments (just 1 or 2 battles). The 8th and 11th have 4 battle honours which leaves a problem (only 3 on the medal) unless the sitter arrived into his regiment late after the first battle had already been fought. If a regular regiment, then the possibilities with the correct combination (blue facings and 3 battle honours) are: the 21st; 23rd;
John Dempsey Artist and Early Photographer: The backing paper on the ambrotype displays an advert for the responsible artist. It reads: “Dempsey The Popular Photographic Artist 30 Upper Arcade, Bristol”. It goes on to claim that he had been known as an artist for over 35 years and had taken tens of thousands of likenesses. It turns out that artist is the most relevant term for Mr. Dempsey. In fact he was named John Dempsey and was a well-known and skilled miniature portrait painter for the first portion of his life. In the early 1850’s, he embraced photography as an opportunity as many miniature portrait painters went to the wall as a result of the new medium. He was more of an itinerant artist from the 1820’s to 1840’s, setting up in many of Britain’s best known seaports such as Liverpool, taking likenesses of military personnel and the public. In the 1850’s, he used the more permanent address in Bristol to further his newly found photographic work. This Crimean portrait is a great example of his skill, combining his photographic portrait expertise with his skilled tinting brush producing unusual and attractive pastel hues on the plate.
Plate Size & Condition: The 9th Plate is beautifully tinted and sits in its original intact case. The glass ambrotype plate is in excellent condition with only a few minor spots of any note. A truly rare and outstanding military image worthy of placement in any museum.