The frame is a fairly typical moulded and painted papier-mache on wood frame, common in the latter part of the 19th Century. The moulding appears to have worn or broken off on the two lower corners, revealing the plain wooden base underneath, again not unusual for a frame of that age and quality.
Joan was able to remove the picture from the frame, but at 16" x 20" (400 x 500mm) it was too large to fit on her scanner so she photographed it. She also noticed an unusual feature of the photograph:
I was surprised when I took the picture out of the frame; it appeared to have a charcoal overlay on all of the dark surfaces. (When my finger tips brushed the edge of the picture, there was a dark residue and the picture actually felt like charcoal.) Was this charcoal overlay a style? If so, about when was this popular? There is a halo effect around [the head], but that is created primarily by how the "charcoal" was applied.The portrait is of a style quite commonly produced in the late 19th and early 20th Century. I believe it was originally a photographic portrait, almost certainly with a camera which used glass plate negatives (probably 4" x 6"), but then enlarged roughly by a factor of four to produce the print which you now have in your possession.
One of the side effects of such enlargements from smaller negatives is that any blemishes or imperfections in the original, including a lack of contrast between light and dark shades, would be enlarged and/or enhanced in appearance. As a result, such enlargements were often retouched or embellished in a variety of ways. In some cases the customer might even have requested, for example, a special colouring of the portrait, whatever the quality of the black & white or sepia version.
These effects were achieved using pencil, charcoal, pastels, water colours or oil paints, and I've discussed a number of examples of retouched or otherwise modified portraits previously on Photo-Sleuth:
- Collodion positives: Early coloured portraits in Derby
- Gilding the lily: Hand colouring of carte de visite portraits
- A coloured portrait by Lawrence Brothers of Cape Town: A carte de visite finished in oils
- The Man with Piercing Blue Eyes: Retouching of early albumen prints
- Annie Orchard's crowning glory: A coloured opalotype from Derby
- "Portraits enlarged up to life size": Enlargement, framing and colouring from cabinet-sized glass plate negatives
- Hand coloured enlargements of a Yorkshire sailor and his wife: Enlargements finished in oils
- Crimson curtains and carpets of burgundy: Photographic portraits finished in oils
- A family tintype portrait from the 1890s: Retouching of cheap tintypes
- Jerome - "Studios Everywhere": Postcard portraits finished in water colour
Sometimes the retouching was so extensive that little was left of the original photograph. Usually the medium used for the retouching would later be "fixed," but in this case that does not seem to have happened, perhaps because it was to be mounted immediately under glass. Besides, they wouldn't have had access to the wide variety of fixatives that are available today.
As far as a date is concerned, it is difficult to be very precise, but I estimate from the style of portrait and the man's clothing that it was taken in the mid- to late 1880s or early 1890s. Part of the reason for my uncertainty is that this particular style of enlargement/retouching with charcoal was a good deal more common in North America (particularly the United States) than in England.