This strange image is just one of Black & White Photos That Cannot Be Explained"(naw, this ones easy. The kid is painting a face on the older gentleman, who has male pattered balding. His head is tilted toward the camera is all. Not so odd.
Photograph from 1873 of a body preserved in a bog. The body had been found in 1871 in the Heidmoor near de:Rendswühren and is now on display at Gottorf Castle, Schleswig Germany. Dated around or century AD
So. Sad ~ A penniless mother hides her face in shame after putting her children up for sale. Chicago, My husband's late mother actually had this happen in the depression. She and her brother ended up in an orphanage. It is so sad!
I can DEFINITELY see the little boy being Ralph Waldo Emerson's son. Yes, Emerson did have a child, and being the smart and philosophical man that Emerson was, I'm sure his son turned out something like the child in this photo.
The invisible mother ~ This was a practice where the mother, often disguised or hiding, often under a spread, holds her baby tightly for the photographer to insure a sharply focused image. Portraits from Linda Fregni Nagler's book The Hidden Mother