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Mystery painting ... or is it?

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    Posted 12 years ago

    (82 items)

    I am not altogether certain that this a painting, perhaps it's a print? It was very special to my grandmother, enough so that she included it in the limited number if items in her move to Italy in the 1970's and moved it back to the USA when she returned in the mid 1980's. I have a photo of it hanging on the wall of her apartment in Rome. I have no idea it's age, no idea who the children are, etc. Can anyone help me solve this mystery?

    Unsolved Mystery

    Help us close this case. Add your knowledge below.


    1. tikiray tikiray, 12 years ago
      The smallest girl in the picture looks like she is wearing a piece of mourning jewelry (a mourning brooch). Can you make anything out on her brooch? Sometimes the info you're looking for is IN the painting and not written on it.
    2. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      Hmm, I took a good look and it's hard to make out what is on the brooch. Seems to be a face, but no defined. The standing boy wearing black is holding a bird, does that have any significance? The other standing boy wearing gold (I assume male) has one arm behind the standing boy wearing black, with his hand resting on the other boy's shoulder. The little girl (? could be boy) in white with the blue sash is clutching the boy in black's hand and arm looking up at the bird.
    3. tikiray tikiray, 12 years ago
      I'm not sure of the significance of the boy in black with the bird, but I'm sure it means something because the other children are dressed in colorful clothing. The brooch on the smallest child might signify that they are orphans. The boy in black has got to mean something, even his hair is black. I'm intrigued!! It is a very pretty painting or print.
    4. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      The three children with light color hair and colorful clothing seem alike, then there is the boy with black hair wearing black holding the bird (is it dead or alive?). Perhaps he represents a sibling who passed away? Very mysterious.
    5. tikiray tikiray, 12 years ago
      Could be! Kinda eerie when you really think about it. lol
    6. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 12 years ago
      I think the Boy and the small girl with morning jewelry have just lost a Mother or father or Both. They are in morning. It looks like a Family member has taken them in as you can see the other 2 Children are excited. The Boy is not holding a crow, he is holding a Baby Chicken, you cab see the red under chin and red crown on top of head. Under magnification its actually white. If its a painting? I would need to see a closeup very clear picture. Dave
    7. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      Thanks for adding your interpretation, Dizzydave. I do not think the bird is a chicken because it is smaller, gray and has flying wings. It's hard to get a good photo because of the glass, that's why I took it at an angle. Without the camera flash it comes out dark. I will try to take another that just shows the children.
    8. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      I added three photos, best I could do without a flash and taken through glass up-close.
    9. Savoychina1 Savoychina1, 12 years ago
      Perhaps the bird is a Mourning dove ? !
    10. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      Hmmm ...
    11. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 12 years ago
      Still can't tell from pictures. You will have to take a magnify glass and look at it closley. Dave
    12. tikiray tikiray, 12 years ago
      Mourning dove + mourning brooch = someone died! I guess that's about all we can figure out from the painting itself. I like Dave's idea that the two children with the mourning pieces lost someone and the other two are members of a family taking them in. That would explain the distinction between the two with mourning items and the two without.
    13. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      What era do you think? Victorian? Earlier?
    14. tikiray tikiray, 12 years ago
      Thats what I would say, victorian time period. You could remove the backing to see if there is anything written on the back of the picture, but I don't know if I'd do that if I were you.
    15. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 12 years ago
      I would say the 2 children in mourning are from a different area than the other children by the dress and hair styles. The Black Suit and clothing on girls looks to be 1850's- 1890's period. Early Victorian. I wonder if its French by the clothing of the boy on left and girl to right of Boy in black suit?
    16. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      I just looked up online about mourning clothing for children in the Victorian era and learned that children under the age of 15 were not expected to wear mourning clothes, which could explain why only the boy in black is dressed in mourning. He must be at least 15 years old then. The brooch on the youngest child could be a portrait of her mother, so perhaps that is who passed away.
    17. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 12 years ago
      Yep, but you know it would look better on my wall! LOL Dave
    18. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      Perhaps so, Dave, however this and every other item passed down from my grandmother are not going anywhere! By the way, would you a look at the first Show & Tell item I posted (my grandmother's "teething toy") and tell me what you think about it?

    19. tikiray tikiray, 12 years ago
      Glad you found that info about the age of kids and mourning clothes! Cool to know!
    20. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      I can't say for certain what type of flower, trees and bird they are. I don't want to take the paper off the back, would be a hassle to have to take it to have it re-done. I have a picture of it (the back) but can't post another photo and it really does not provide any clues with the paper on. Oh, well - the mystery continues but I think at least it's safe to say it's a mourning image.
    21. SMD SMD, 12 years ago
      Okay, I took out one photo and put in one of the back. I doubt this was it's original covering, am sure there's some clue underneath but really not sure about taking the paper off!
    22. Dizzydave Dizzydave, 12 years ago
      Its not uncommon for a painting to be under glass. I have over 50 from the 19th century that are under glass. With the exception of what kind of bird he is holding, I think my Expert interpretation is correct. No doll AR8Jason, so you can't assume a doll has anything to do with picture. If the boy was dead the other boy and girl would be wearing mourning clothing or Jewelry as well. Little girl is holding a wild rose, Poppys do not have leaves close to flower. It is obvious that 2 2 other children are comforting the Boy in Black. The paper on back is not of the period, so removing it to check for info is fine. You can buy same paper at any office depot and repklace it later. Its just a Dust Cover, nothing special. Many times you can find on back of picture, family names and dates. While you have it out you can check with magnify glass to see if it is a painting or print. I have been collecting Oil paintings for more than 20 yrs, I have over 500 in my private collection so I do have a little expereance in Art. Over 300 Antique Prints & Etchings. Its an Adventure SMD, open it up and explore!! Dave
    23. mfcps, 11 years ago
      Just found your post and was immediately (although a little late) enthralled. First, don't worry about the paper. It is not old. Simply brown paper applied most likely with 2-way tape. Use non acid paper when you re-do. It is a simple and no brainer task. You MUST look inside. Yes the little child is wearing a mourning broach with a picture of the deceased. The color of the rose may have faded with age and non-museum quality glass; if it was crimson originally it would signify deep sorrow and mourning. The boy (or man) in black may be the oldest son and now the head of the family (if father is also deceased). Or he may be the husband and father. He looks quite young but that may be artist's license...although they did marry young back in the day. The bird represents the soul of the departed ready to take wing to heaven (hopefully). Commonly used on Victorian (and earlier) gravestones and images. Now, a monkey wrench is thrown into the mix: the boy/man in black may be the deceased. Not uncommon in Victorian rememberance paintings to have a likeness of the deceased hanging out with the rest of the clan. If you could decipher the photo in the broach you would know for sure and we could all rest. Do let me know what you find when you go into the back of the picture...good luck and happy hunting. mfcps

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