One of our regulars brought in the above canvas, unframed. The client is a retired curator of one of the city's (and the World's) finest museums. In his spare time he likes to restore paintings. This one was purchased directly from the artist, Cesare Ricciardi 1892-1973, many years ago from his Pine Street studio.
The artist told our client that Philadelphia's most prominent artist, Thomas Eakins 1844-1916 (also the artist's friend and mentor), painted the hands on this particular canvas.
It is nearly impossible to prove as no photographic evidence exists of Eakins' hand touching this canvas, but if one accepts the word of my client (and I absolutely do) and the word of the artist, then this portrait is quite the jewel in my client's collection.
After studying this painting at length, I came to accept that the hands are stylistically different than the rest of this work.
But then I had an issue with the dates: Ricciardi was born in 1892, and Eakins died in 1916. Ricciardi would have been only 18-years-old in 1910, allowing for only a six year window when the two would have been artist-contemporaries.
I decided to take a field trip to view the largest collection of Eakins' portraits. (I did not have to go very far.)
There I learned that Eakins began his career in portraits later in his life, beginning in 1886. (I have subsequently learned that Ricciardi's portrait career was very early in his.) Of the Eakins collection, I found these most similar to the Ricciardi portrait that turned up in the shop.
Thomas Eakins, Portrait of Lucy Lewis, 1896
Note that these are framed by the Museum very simply in a flat wide natural wood. Very unusual. Whereas Eakins' landscapes are framed in ornate gilded frames. I read that Eakins was not a terrifically profitable portrait artist because he did not idealize his subjects, and the end result was very natural, perhaps even unflattering (these two ladies I've selected for you notwithstanding). Perhaps the museum's framemaker chose to illuminate that aspect of the work with this style of frame.
Our Ricciardi, however, was framed in our shop using a gorgeous distressed Isabella, with just a hint of hand painted gilt detail peeking through. This beautiful frame has inspired our client to continue his work to restore his fascinating treasure.