PORTRAIT OF A SOLDIER’S WIFE AND HER HUSBAND AS SHE REMEMBERED HIM

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Item Code: L15564

“Crayon portraits” or “solar enlargements” were developed in the late 1850s and were very popular from 1865 until shortly past the turn of the century. It was an inexpensive way to obtain a large portrait, a status symbol, that would be out of reach for most people. There were several processes, but in essence it involved projecting an enlargement of an existing photograph or negative onto treated paper or canvas that would produce a weak image to be touched up by an artist, giving the impression of a work of art rather than a mere mechanical process.

This has to be one of the most interesting we have seen. Produced likely in 1880s, the image combines a wartime view of a soldier and later image (1880s, judging by the clothing) of a woman, presumably his wife. The original image of the soldier was likely a tintype (we note the reversal of his bayonet and cartridge box) and it preserves the military scene likely painted on the backdrop used in the artist’s studio. The woman, on the other hand, is posed leaning on a column in a studio with plants or small trees behind her. The producer of the new image has tried to mesh the two by providing a common bit of grass under their feet, and placing a drum at the base of the column on which she rests her arm. (It is also possible, he completely filled the trees and vine over the column in an attempt to match the background of the military camp behind the soldier.)

The result, however, is something of a time warp. The soldier appears as he was fifteen or twenty years before, while the woman has continued to age. It is no less disturbing to note that she wears her hair clipped close, which is often the sign of illness or a convalescent in early photographs. It seems likely the wartime image of the man was used because he had died in the war and there were no others. It thus became her only means of memorializing them as a couple and the differences in age, despite the awkward melding of the portraits, lends it a certain poignancy, for we see her as she was and we see him as she remembered him.

The image is housed in its original period wood frame measuring 25 by 29 inches.  [sr]

Please note: this frame contains glass; click here for our policy for shipment of framed items containing glass.

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