A 19thC Oil on Canvas Portrait of a Contemplative Gentleman c.1870

Origin: English
Period: Mid-Victorian
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1870
Height: 21”
Width: 17”

The bust length portrait of a contemplative and pensive gentleman in his older years, wearing a skull cap, and with his hand resting to his face, the whole on swirling dark ground, painted in oils on canvas and remaining unframed and unrestored and surviving from the latter half of the nineteenth century.

The picture remains in original though unrestored condition with no over-painting or restoration and a good deal of craquelure and some small paint loss to the surface; with marks and dirt to the surface remaining uncleaned; and with a couple of small punctures please refer to the photographs for a visual reference. We feel it is utterly beguiling in this condition and is priced sensitively to allow the buyer to restore it if they wished.

Wearing a skullcap is seen as a sign of devoutness. The most common reason for covering the head is a sign of respect and fear of God. It is also felt that this separates God and human, by wearing a hat you are recognising that God is above all mankind.

As with the ‘selfie’ today, portraits were also a chance for more self-conscious sitters to be depicted in the latest fashions. In the eighteenth century, the upper classes entered a new era of prosperity. No longer the preserve of royalty, commissioned portraits, of oneself or one’s ancestors, became a coveted symbol of wealth and status which continued even more so in the nineteenth century. The portraits took pride of place in the home, or were given to others as gifts.

A picture where the timeworn condition completely reflects the subject; somehow it knows more than we do.