Oil paint on large format carbon print, mounted on card
Unidentified artist and photographer
Image © and courtesy of Diana Burns
The example presented above, sent to me by Diana Burns, is from that end of the "hand colouring" scale in which little of the photograph remained visible. Although it is not dated, from the style of sitting I estimate it was originally taken in the late 1880s ot 1890s. I have previously posted examples of an early carte de visite from Cape Town and somewhat later large format prints from Yorkshire which were coloured in a similar style.
Although the outline of a rectangular sheet of thin paper underneath the oil paint is obvious, the thick layer of paint and somewhat garish colours used obscure almost all signs of the photograph, and only small remnants are visible at the edges in the top right hand corner.
The painting is, for the most part, rather rough, and in places almost seems intentionally crude, to the extent where I would suggest that it is either unfinished or perhaps was not carried out by a professional. The rough texture of the pale blue-grey backdrop contrasts with the smooth surface covering the gentleman's body, although the brush strokes are still very evident. The beard is asymmetrical, the tie is just a collection of blotches, the shoes merely vague elongated blobs at then end of his trousers, and very little effort has been made to give the chair much semblance of a means of support. In fact, the longer one looks at the portrait, the less one notices the chair - it almost seems to vanish into the background, leaving the subject precariously perched in mid-air.
There is a strip of semi-transparent, cracked, varnish-like substance around the edge of the card mount, and partly encroaching onto the print, which may be the remains of an adhesive used to affix the mount to some kind of frame.
The back of the card mount has "14488 Col" written in large digits, while "Colbert Whitrigg 1/125" and "Special" are in much smaller writing at the top left and lower left, respectively
There is also a strip along all four edges along which the surface appears to have been taken off, perhaps by the removal of tape previously used for mounting or framing.
There's not much more to say about this colourised portrait. If it had been me sitting for the photographer, I'd like to think that I'd have chosen an uncolourised photograph, but I'll admit that it must have been enough of a novelty in the day to have attracted at least a few customers. Besides, one could never be sure how slick the oil finished portrait would turn out.