As you probably can tell, this cabinet card photograph of Alma C. Downing has been trimmed, which is regrettable, since the photographer's imprint has been excised from the photograph. The reverse of the card tells us that the photographer was a prominent one, having won numerous prize medals in the UK, Europe and even in the US. Here is the list of medals:
"Dublin 1884; Northampton 1884; London 1884 & 1885; Dundee 1886; Nottingham 1886 & 1887; Liverpool 1886; Edinburgh 1886; Oldham 1885 & 1886; Theale 1887; Derby 1887; Newcastle upon Tyne 1887; Cornwall 1887 & 1888; Crystal Palace 1888; Liverpool Photographic 1888; Glouchestershire International 1888; Universal Exposition Paris 1889; Newcastle 1890; Crystal Palace; Washington US 1890; Edinburgh 1890.
Photographer to T.R.H. The Prince and Princess of ....[cut off]
H.R.H. Prince Albert Victor, H.R.H. The Duke....[cut off]
H.S.H. Prince Edward of Saxe Weimar and The Lords Lieute....[cut off]
The Archbishops of Dublin"
I found a match for these awards on The National Archives (UK) website. The photographer's studio was Layfayette, of Dublin, Glasgow & Manchester. The Victoria and Albert Museum has hundreds of Lafayette's images on their website, but most of are Royalty, Stage Actors or other very prominent individuals.
As for Alma C. Downing, unfortunately, I don't know if Downing is Alma's maiden or married name. Nor do I have a location. I did find the following piece of art with the portrait of Alma:
On the reverse there is a brief notation: "Painting by Alma Downing, 1895."
I found an Alma C. Downing, a married woman, born 1861 in Blackheath, Kent in both the 1901 and 1911 England Census. Her husband was John George Downing. The family lived in India during the 1880s, where three of their children were born. In the 1911 census, the family is living in Great Bealings, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England. John's occupation is listed as "Indian Army Pensioner." This Alma C. Downing died on July 10, 1931 in Woodbridge.
I have no way of knowing at this point if this is the same Alma of the portrait and painting above, but I will update this post with any additional information as I find it.
UPDATE March 11, 2012: I received this wonderful note from a relative of Alma C. Downing who gives us insight into Alma's life and the painting above. Thank you so much, Jill!
Her husband was John George Downing, they married in India in 1880, her birth date was 6th October 1854.
On the back of the photo she has written A.C. Downing and her address, 27 Blessinton Rd, Lee, S.E. near London. Lee is one mile south of Blackheath. Her father William Kieser M.A. owned a prep school named Persival House in Blackheath. This is where she first met her future husband while he was a young pupil there. John George Downing was in the army in India for some 28 years and at one point they bought a house near Blackheath which they owned for 3 years and the address above could well be that house.
Alma Catherine Downing was a good artist on all the letters she sent to her daughters while she was in Phoona and they were living with their Downing grandparents in Monkstown she always drew a beautiful picture, and I have an invitation dated Nov. 1872 from the Keeper and Secretary of the National Gallery, London to admit her 'to study in the gallery from 10, till 5.0'Clock on Thursdays and Fridays at Trafallgar Square and on Wednesdays, Thursdays & Fridays, at South Kensington'.
The picture found with the photo of Alma Catherine Downing is interesting, the settle and the man with the long coat [which is red] and the black 3 cornered hat has been copied from another artist, but the man is standing a little differently. The moment I saw the picture I knew who the original artist was - his name was Delapore Downing b.1852 d.1929 he was the 1st cousin of her husband's, father. Delapore's brother Charles Palmer Downing was also an artist.
The name of Delapore Downing's picture is 'Fortification' I found it on www.easyart.com/art-prints/Delapoer-Downing/ Fortification - ID:36269.
I'm guessing you found the photograph of Alma Catherine Downing in Canada. I can only think it belonged to her grandson John D. Hooper he was the only child of her youngest daughter Millicent Hooper b.1892 d.1957. John was born in Jan-Feb-March 1921 Ipswich, Suffolk and in 1944 Oct-Nov-Dec he married Marguerite M. Miles in Ipswich, Suffolk. They moved to Canada but I don't know when, or where to and I don't know what happened to them. My late mother and her sister were very fond of him, but lost contact with him.
I hope the above is of some help to you. I think you are doing a wonderful job with your site. Jill"