Trying to identify a family portrait - can anyone date it accurately?

I presume it's 19th century but I'm interested to see how much I can narrow it down. I'm sure there's an expert out there who can tell from the clothes? Other information - British, maybe living in India?

4 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    The short answer: Most likely between 1829-1857


    The long answer:

    There really isn't a way to place the location of the portrait. A British citizen in India would look much the same as one from Britain. While that may not hold true in day-to-day activities due to climate, a wealthy man would not want his portrait to look any less proper or professional than those of his peers in the British Isles.


    The portrait looks professionally done, so the individual was probably relatively wealthy. Any man of means would probably have kept up on the latest styles...especially a younger man like this. (Often as people get older, they keep the same style they had when they were young. My grandmother has had the same hairstyle since the 60's. My uncle still wears his stonewashed tight 80's jeans. The older the person in the picture, sometimes the less reliable the style markers can be in dating a picture/portrait.)


    The pose means very little, if anything. It's a pretty standard pose that has been used for at least two centuries, if not more.


    While the daguerrotype (photograph) was introduced in 1839, that doesn't rule out a portrait painted after that date. This is especially true in British areas, where Richard Beard tightly controlled his ownership of the patent. The spread of photography in France, America, and elsewhere was far faster and more widespread due to less restrictive control of the process.


    So...on to the dating....

    If we compare it to US Presidential portraits, we get a likely date between 1829-1857.


    We could also check against British Prime ministers, but the same general dates hold true.


    If this is a portrait handed down through your family, I would suggest researching your family history to find male relatives that were in their 30s-40s between 1829-1857. You may be able to find other sources for an image of them that could confirm who it is.


    If you're looking for more scientific means of dating, you can turn to forensic analysis...but it is very expensive. Also, they can't pinpoint the exact year, so you would likely get a range much like I've given you above.


    Check the below websites if you want more portraits for comparison purposes.

  • 1 decade ago

    I think you have to consider that someone that has his portrait painted is fairly well off. As people began to have photographic pictures taken in the middle 1850's, I would think that this was before then.

    For me there are 2 main articles of clothing that may help you to narrow down the period.

    The neckcloth and the lapels on his coat.

    Personally, I would date the portrait as being in the 1840's to 1850. Before then, gentlemen's neck cloths were much more elaborite. After then the collars tended not to be up.

    I would love to know if you do pinpoint it down!

  • 1 decade ago

    Explore this page:

    This is a function of Family Tree Magazines called "Photo-detective," in which people submit mysterious old photographs and they are dated using many different tricks. Though yours is a portrait, the basic methods are the same.

    You could try to submit the portrait to the service. This site also allowed free download of a book on the subject of photograph dating. Chances are you will date your piece by the buttons, the cut of the fabric, the hair style, the painting method, even that watch-chain could yield important clues.

    Good luck with the project. If you can find the book on-line about photo dating and analysis, download it. It's a terrific book.

  • 1 decade ago

    The coat cut, lapels vest appear to be most likely late 1700 to early 1800, English dress, possibly even wealthy colonial. I would venture to guess that it is not a painting of life in India, because of the weight and color of the apparel. The ascot, also is another dating item as they became somewhat out of fashion after the 1820's additional clues are the lack of a wig, and the relaxed seating. It appears that he maybe seated in an armed chair might even have crossed legs. This is much more informal that portraits of earlier era.

    I have seen similar styles of portraits in the era of Jackson (1820-1830)

    Source(s): Genealogical Researcher 35+ years
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