Please help me with Ancestral Portrait ID

canajoNovember 22, 2009

Could this portrait and the photo (below) be the same man? The photo is identified, on the back, as William Frasier White, my great, great grandfather, born 1828, died 1884. I have always believed that the portrait to also be of William F. White, but I am not sure. Can you all help me determine if they are one and the same? Does the style of dress fit the appropriate time frame-1828 to 1884? Personally, I think the man in the photo and portrait look similar in the eyes. I also have photos of portraits of William F. White's parents, my great, great, great grandfather and grandmother, if that would help in the identification.

Here is the photo, which is identified on the back as William Frasier White .

Here is the full view of the portrait, when he was younger

Here is a closer view of the portait

Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

Nancye White

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I'd be inclided to trust the I.D. written on the back because it is the only documenttion that you have and there is no reason to doubt its accuracy: William Frasier White.

No, isn't William F. White the same name?

It seems possible that the two portraits are on the same man at different ages. I look for the distance between the eyes, and brow slant. The mouth has the same width. The neck length seems to be the same. In the older photo, I can't swee the detail of the corners of the mouth. Are these straight, turn up or turn down?

The nose continues to grow a bit into adulthood, therefore it may not diagnostic since it changes in size as one ages. Another feature I look for is the ears: Size, shape, and location on the head in relationship to the mouth and eyes. Unfortuantely, hair covers the ears in the young man's picture.

A stroke can alter the shape and symmetry of the mouth, but I don't see any evidence of this in these pictures.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 3:21AM
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Jemdandy-Thank you so much for taking the time to study the photo and the painting. Yes, William F. White and William Fraiser White are one and the same. I have always believed (well, about 50% sure) that the portrait was William F. White. That is why I was very excited to find the photo identifying him and at least have something to compare the portrait to. Do you happen to know if the style of dress is appropriate for 1828-1884? I have pulled up other portraits from 1850 (figuring he could be in his 20's during the time of the portrait) and it seems as if some of the others were dressed in a similar manner.

The portrait is oil on canvas and unsigned, if that info is helpful at all.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 5:19PM
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Here is what I see:

-Both have high foreheads, rounded
-Receding hairline in younger portrait could explain lack of hair in older photo?
-Squared chin on both (as opposed to pointed, etc.)
-High (but not excessively large or round) cheekbones on both
-Long and narrow nose bridge. Appears wider in older photo. Tip of nose in portrait appears to drop downward, which is not so pronounced in photo.
-Large rounded eyes, deep set, minimal flesh of lid showing between brow and eye on both.

What gets me is the eyes. In both painting & photo, look closely at the left eyebrow (right side from our view). The inner corner of that brow grows lower, almost into the eye socket area. The right brow (left from our view) does not appear to grow in this same pattern on either image.

Now look closely at the right eye (left from our view). In the portrait it appears as if it sets just a bit lower on his face than the left eye (right eye from our view). Does not appear to be due to tilt of head. (No other facial features appear to be at a tilt, but rather perfectly horizontal.) That same eye appears to set lower on the face in the photo as well.

Try this: put your mouse on the center of the pupil of his left (right eye facing us). Move your mouse straight left, as if you were drawing a straight line to other eye.

When I do that in either the portrait or photo, my cursor lands on the upper lash line of the left (facing us) eye. If I try to draw a straight line from pupil to pupil, I have to slope my mouse down and to the left a smidge in either image.

As far as dating the portrait, after looking around at 19th century clothing a bit, it appears the cravet might be a big clue. Tho I've yet to find one tied like his (appears to have only a single 'tail'?) from a book, Neckclothitania, on cravet knots.

Had some good photos and lost them. Will rummage through my history and find them again. ;)

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 8:23PM
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Moonshadow-you are right about the eyes not being in line with each other! How exciting this is! It is something I never noticed before.

I have to say that the deep set eyes, as you noted, use to scare my sister and I when we passed through my parent's living room. I use to run through the room to avoid them as they seem to follow you from the portrait.

It would be great to be able to say that is indeed a portrait of my great great grandfather, especially when I hang it up in my living room (45 years later, I am no longer afraid of the eyes.) I have had a 1st cousin once removed, whom I never knew about, contact me and he is doing a genealogy of the White Family. Come to find out that my cousins, some known and unknown, have portraits done in the same fashion that are of my great grandfather; great, great, great, grandfather (William F. White's dad,) and great, great, great grandmother (William F. White's mom) It is too cool to find out about unknown cousins that have a part of my ancestory.

Thank you so much for your information and clues! I hope I may be getting closer to saying these two are one and the same!

Nancye White

    Bookmark   November 23, 2009 at 9:45PM
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The bow tie form and hair style of the painting of the younger William White says 1840s - 1850s to me.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 11:46AM
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Keep in mind that one is a photo and the other a painting so proportion is going to be different, due to the artists interpretation, but here is a little photoshop comparison

I would guess they are at least related if not the same person.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 12:52PM
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Nice PS work, paul4x4.

RE: the hairstyle. Finally found that link I lost last night. Mentions how by 1870 men were 'oiling' their hair and mustaches, kind of heavily it appears. (Ick, I say ;D ) And hairstyles were shorter. Those tidbits came from here. Also, think of any Civil War era photos, many had shorter hair that looked unwashed. I just figured times were tough, so they paid less attention to hygiene perhaps. But maybe they were slapping oil all over it. ;D

I still haven't found an image of his cravet tied in that particular style anywhere, with collar rolled down over it. But have seen references to mid 19th century collars rolled down, instead of flared up and outward as in earlier decades. Tend to agree w/colleenoz on 1840s to 50s.

By the 1840 shoulders were narrower and sloped (as in his suit in the portrait). By 1830 shoulder were sloped and puffed sleeves were disappearing. (The high empire waist poufy sleeves of what we see in Jane Austen period were winding down, where men's neckwear had much more emphasis.) But if your portrait subject was b. 1828, he looks to be at least 20s to early 30s in that photo? Which would place it latter 1840s to 1850s. (Your guy does appear relatively well dressed and probably had some degree of financial comfort?) You can go to Wikipedia, start in 1820s (see links and galleries at very bottom of page). From there you can work your way through the decades.

Come to find out that my cousins, some known and unknown, have portraits done in the same fashion that are of my great grandfather; great, great, great, grandfather (William F. White's dad,) and great, great, great grandmother (William F. White's mom) It is too cool to find out about unknown cousins that have a part of my ancestory.

Oh, I hear that! My 86 yr old Uncle stores all genealogy in his head and on papers he's gathered. He can recite it. Blows my mind, he has no use for computers. ;) But he has managed over the years, through letters, phone calls and visits to his home place and surrounding counties (where my ancestors settled in what was then all of VA, but later separated into VA and West Va). He's snagged some amazing old photos of my ancestors through distant relatives. Till then we didn't know those photos existed. It is a thrill, isn't it?!

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 2:20PM
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Paul4X4-that is wonderful what you did with Photoshop! It is very helpful. I think it does look like the same man, which is encouraging.

Moonshadow-thank you for the links and the info about era and dress. I looked through the Wikipedia pages and found an illustration of 1856 men's fashion that reminded me of the younger man's portrait. That would be about the right age range of the man in the portrait. I have listed the link to the 1856 illustration. And, Moonshadow, the White family, my father's family, is from Richmond, Viginia so we have relations from the same state!

Thank you all so much for the amount of time you all have invested in this. This is a puzzle I have been wanting to solve for a long time and you all have been so helpful!

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 6:40PM
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Noting the dates of historical photographical markers is valuable for dating old photographs. The patent for the daguerrotype was filed in 1840. The wet plate process began ca 1851, the Ferrotype (or tintype) 1856. and the dry plate in 1871.

Before 1840, all likenesses were drawings or paintings. I estimate the it took about 5 years for the daguerrotype to come into popular use, therefore, we can estimate that daguerrotypes were made between 1845 and into the 1850s. The daguerrotype faded in use as newer proceses took over, but it was a gradual fade out, not a suddent stoppage.

George Eastman intorduced the Kodak camera in 1888. It held a roll of opaque paper based material coated with gelatin. The gelatin had to be removed for processing and printing. A year later in 1889, Eastman changed to a tranparent film and photogaphy took the form that we are familar with today.

The leica camera went on the market in 1924 which begat the candid photography movement.

1931 - Harold Edgerton invented electronic flash.
1935 - EAstman Kodak Company intorduced Kodachrome film.
1942 - Eastman Kodak introduced kodacolor film.
1947 - Edwin Land introduced the Polaroid Land Camera, a new technique that developed itself in 60 seconds.
1963 - The Polaroid Corpration marketed a color film that self developed in 60 seconds.

These milestones give the eariest possible date for various types of photographic processes. The first permanent photo was made in 1826 by Joseph Nicephore Nicepce, but that was a labatory style photo that set the stage for later developments. Photography did not become popular until after the Daguerrotype.

There is an anomaly worthy of note. The images on daguerrotypes and ferotypes are reversed left-to-right because the image is laid directly on the front face of the photographic media. In these photos, wedding rings will appear to be on the wrong hand. For years, it was believed that Billy the Kid was left handed, because his pistol was seemingly worn on his left side. But he was right handed. This was realized after someone pointed out the reversal of the image.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2009 at 11:47PM
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Has this portrait always been in your family? Is it signed by the artist?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 1:29AM
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Thank you, jemdandy, for the info concerning the dating of the photo. After reading your posting, I decided to google the name on bottom of the photo, "Foster, Campbell & Co., Richmond, Va." I found that they were linked to cabinet cards, which makes me wonder if that is what the photo is.

Yes, calliope, the portrait has been in my famly forever. There are other portraits, at the homes of my cousins, of what I believe to be this man's father and mother as well as his son. All of the portraits seem to have similar gold gesso frames. I can not find a signature on the portrait, but I am no expert...maybe I am not looking in the right places.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 9:09PM
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Don't hold my feet to the fire on this but I seem to remember reading something about "traveling artists" who went from town to town and made their living by painting portraits. This was, of course, before photography came into being and widely used. I think the article also said something about these portraits seldom being signed. I really should do some searching to verify this but I have a cheesecake in the oven and a couple of pies waiting their turn. Actually just to pooped to concentrate right now but really enjoy reading all the posts.

Happy Thanksgiving all.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2009 at 11:43PM
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Pris, your possible recall of "traveling artists" is very interesting. That makes a lot of sense! That thought made me look more closely at the other family portraits, to see if they could have been painted at the same time.

Below is a link to a picture of William Frasier White's mother, Hannah Frayser White, 1800-1878. If this portrait of Hannah was made during the 1850's, when William's could have been painted, then she looks to be the right her 50's. And, Wikipedia states that in the 1850's, a woman wore an "indoor cap became little more than a lace and ribbon frill worn on the back of the head." That sounds like what Hannah is wearing on her head.

Possibly, then both of these portraits COULD have been painted in the 1850's! This is exciting...kind of a family portrait mystery! Thanks so much for the insight. I am learning a lot from everyone's knowledge.

I hope everyone had a peaceful Thanksgiving.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hannah White

    Bookmark   November 27, 2009 at 10:15PM
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I'm still leaning to the 1840s rather than the 1850s.
Hannah White's cap is a lot more like this example from 1828
than the example from the 1850s
which as you can see is a mere wisp hardly visible at the front.
By the late 1840s the earlier style would be getting rather old fashioned, though older women do tend to hang on to the styles of their youth. :-)
Also, I don't think Hannah looks to be in her 50s in the portrait. Women of an earlier time tended to look older at a given age than they do today.
Check out this tie from the 1840s
Young people then as now tend to be "trendy" :-)
Also this fashion plate from 1848
The centre man's outfit from tie, shirt, vest, coat, hairstyle and even extended sideburns is _very_ similar to William White's younger portrait.
So if the portrait was painted in the late 1840s then William would have been about 20 and Hannah in her late 40s, rather than well into her 50s.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 10:30AM
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I tend to agree with Colleen as to the time frame. Photography was relatively new in the 1830's and could conveivably be in widespread use by the 1850's. So, portrait painting would possibly still be common in the 1840's but be less so later on.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 12:27PM
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There was no popular photography in the 1830s. It existed only as a laboratory project. Photography began in the 1840s.

The early portraits required long exposure times and I think that was the reason for the dour expressions you see in those photos. In some cases, the subject had help to hold still during the exposure. Behind the subject and hidden from view was a stong rod that the subject leaned against to remain imobile. He struck a facical pose that he could hold for several seconds. You can not hold a 'smile' for any length of time without flexing some of the muscles and bluring the pose. So the dour or pensive relaxed pose won out. Also, a lot of folks were very aprehensive of having their picture taken. To them, it was a big deal and that anxiety shows in their expression.

It wasn't too many years before the exposure time came down to 1/25 sec and the facial expressions improved. In fact, the facial expression became the main focus of portraiture.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 2:30PM
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My point exactly. Photography was being developed in the mid to late 1830's and was probably becoming popular in 1850's and later. Therefore portrait painting would have still been widely used more so in the 1840's than later. That's why I think the young mans' portrait was painted probably before 1850. Not necessarily so but probably.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 5:32PM
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Pris and Colleen, thanks for the input about the younger portrait being from the 1840's. I pull up web sites, including ones about the type of sleeves a woman would wear, and it does seem possible that the portrait of Hannah White could be from that time, as well as her son's portrait.

Jemdandy, do you happen to know if the photo is a cabinet card or a cartes-de-visite (CDVs)? I do not have the original with me but will be able to see it at Christmas. I note that there Wikipedia states that you can date a cabinet card by the type of card stock and whether it is square or scalloped. I wonder if knowing the date of the photo of William White would help me in dating and verifying if the portrait is also William White.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2009 at 7:57PM
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I don't know enough about cabinet cards to tell. I have a collection of family photos on cardboard that date from 1890 to 1920. My uncle made some of these.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2009 at 2:34AM
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Cabinet Cards

I looked it up. See reference link. Its very interesting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Cabinet Cards

    Bookmark   November 29, 2009 at 3:04AM
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