This is a wonderful early photographic portrait of two children during the Civil War. The little boy, in his typically late Victorian outfit, is holding a hoop in his hand, while his sister, in a gorgeous gingham dress with apron, has a doll in her arms. There is a column behind them ... could this be a graveyard? Is this a memorial to their father who died in the Civil War? It is framed in the original wood frame with gilded inner ring, and with its original matting, and in very good condition (a few small stains and possibly some fading) for its age. This utterly charming piece is more than just a nice piece of art, it is real piece of American history. It is signed George B. Ayres, 1864. Sight size is 8 3/4" X 7". Frame size: 10 1/2" X 8 1/2".
I did some research, and discovered that George B. Ayres, author of "How to Paint Photographs," 1878, was renowned as a photo retoucher and print-maker. Ayres also produced an albumen print of Abraham Lincoln in the late 19th c., the negative of which is in the Smithsonian Institution. I could be that it originally was a photo which was copied by Ayres in his own hand. This would explain the discrepancy in dates on the front and back. The writing on the back says: Aunt Marshall and Ayres to E.L.C., and it is dated Dec. 25, 1863 - which I would take to mean the date that the original photo was taken (Christmas day during the Civil War). It then makes sense that George B. Ayres painted this in 1864 (hence the date difference on front and back).