I took a chance on this one, which I purchased online from a seller who did not know anything about it--I was just immediately taken with the evocativeness of the portrait, which immediately reminded me of the powerful portraits of South African born, Amsterdam-based contemporary artist Marlene Dumas. I should have guessed, as is the case, that the softness and mystery of it is due to the fact that it is a sandpaper painting--a technique popular in the mid 19th century, in which the surface of the paper was covered with fine grit marble dust, producing the effect of sandpaper. Here I believe the portrait was executed in a combination of charcoal, chalk, black ink, and perhaps also watercolor for the color. The overall effect I think is super striking, and I must say this piece has quite an amazing presence.
I would guess it indeed dates to the mid to late 19th century. It shows an old water stain that covers his nose, which personally I feel this just rather adds to its aura! There are also a few very small scattered holes/tears in the paper as documented, and a bit of folding/tearing along the very bottom edge, from where it has been fit into a frame. And while I have mostly photographed it outside the frame, it came--and comes--in a solid wood matte black painted with new cardboard back. The thick glass in the frame appears to be tempered and has a kind of a softening effect to it, which is kind of interesting, but might want to be replaced. It is not wired on the back for hanging.
Framed size: 16 3/8" x 13 1/4" x 1 1/4". Drawing/painting: 14 1/8" x 11". Very stable condition, with flaws as noted and documented.