Help Identify Ornate Framed Portrait

referencegurlDecember 23, 2012

Hello All,

The other day I was at an antique store and came across this beautiful, filthy, ornatly framed portrait of a woman. I bought it for only $8 as the dealer didn't know anything about it. When I got it home I realized just how ornate and old it was. The thing is covered in years of grime and dust and I started cleaning the frame. I noticed as the dirt came off the color silver became visible. It is a wood frame but seems to have silver leaf or have been painted silver. I do not know how old this portrait is but it is on canvas.

If you can give me an estimate on the time period that would be wonderful. Here are some photos to help. There is obvious water damage so I am not expecting the portrait to be worth very much.

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It's helpful to reference back to hairstyle and costuming of women and is an easily found database. That style sleeve became popular in the very late 1880s and was gone by around 1905. That style neckline with the fly-away collar, around the 1890s. The frame is lovely.....looks to be ghesso or plaster over wood. Some of it appears to be missing and that's why I am guessing that. Easily touched up. The portrait on canvas suprises me. Look to the back of the frame and tell us what covers it. Thin wood?

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 1:24PM
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This is what the back of the frame looks like.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2012 at 2:35PM
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the frame may be worth more than the portrait. Unless you can identify who the protrait is, it has little value except as a sample of the art of that period.

I own a portrait of my g-grandamother this is similar except it is a print on cardboard. I can't tell by the posted image alone; It requires a close view of the actual object. So here's my guess:

It was made after the Civil War ca 1870- 1880. It may be a photographic print on canvas. The print may have been enhanced by a artist. Examine your picture at the sleeve ruffs and the hair. Does it look hand drawn with charcoal and soft pencils? It was common to draw in fancy clothing on the model. The model may have worn a simple dress and the artist added ruffs and sometimes lace. In your portrait, the high collar could have been added.

Sometinmes the print was made light and the artist used the light print as a guide to paint/draw the portrait. On my protrait, it is obvious that my g-grandmother's hair had extensive pencil work and lace was added to the dress collar.

However, by 1880, it was no longer necesary to touch up dull photo images.

Your portrait has been damaged by water stains. However, if the image was a notable historic figure such as Susan B. Anthony, it would stiil have some value.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2012 at 12:16AM
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I disagree. The costuming is very telling when aging a portrait of a woman and in the sixties women's shoulderlines were dropped, with the sleeve seam often starting several inches down the upper arm. The seventies did not see any flouncing in the sleeves, either. It happened more toward the 1890s and was a relatively short-lived style. Yes, a photographer can add thing like that, but it's unlikely he could or would have dreamed up a fashion style decades in advance. This is a very typical style for dresses in the 90s. This is either a gigot or flounced sleeve and is late victorian. Ditto the hairstyle with the the parted bangs. Frame.....hard to tell, but portrait is of a woman before the turn of the century.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 7:21PM
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I agree with calliope as to the dating of the costume, but I don't think the collar is a flyaway one, but a plain collar with a fancy oversized hair bow at the nape of the sitter's neck behind her head. This would indicate to me she is a young woman, about 15-16, not yet putting her hair up as an adult woman would.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2012 at 10:34PM
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I think you may be right on that collar being a hair bow. I'm at the mercy of a monitor.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 1:42PM
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I'm wondering if the canvass can be gently soaked in a delicate cleaner. Some of the water staining might wash out.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2012 at 5:44PM
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I really doubt it is printed directly on canvas. Paper containing the image may have been backed with canvas, or this may be a mount to a board with that texture on the back. The OP might gently press the back of it to see if it 'gives' like a heavy fabric, or is very rigid. It would also be telling if and when the print is removed to see if it is 'stretched' like a canvas would be. Photographers were still routinely doing hand touch-up work if they did their own developing before the mid-twentieth century.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2012 at 1:46PM
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