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Below are brief biographies of some of my favorite
silhouette artists. These are the a small portion of the artists
of the antique silhouettes I collect and sell. These silhouettists
generally worked from the period of 1760 to 1870. I add new
artists to this biographical page as time permits and information
becomes available. Enjoy and please email me if you are seeking
information about a particular artist.
Edgar Adolphe (circa
1807 - at least 1879)
Most of what we know about Adolphe comes from his trade labels and
profiles. Many of his trade labels refer to him as a a miniature and
profile painter. A few full color portrait miniatures are known
but most of his work seems to have been silhouettes. The earliest
recorded work by him appears to have been done in 1832 and has a trade
label proclaiming Adolphe as "Miniature Painter and Profilist to Louis
Philippe, Kind of the French." Louis Philippe was King of France
from 1830-1848. Since Adolphe appears to have left France for
England by 1832 or earlier, Adolphe must have gotten his appointment as
artist to the Court fairly soon after the Louis Philippe's accession.
It is thought that Adolphe spent some time traveling and painting
through England before he settled in Brighton no later than 1838.
In British Silhouette Artists and their Work, McKechnie
indicates that Adolphe probably worked in Brighton through the end of
his career. He may have, but, if so, he must have changed careers
because I found that he married Margaret Phibbs in
1856 in Dublin and still lived in Dublin without his wife in 1879.
Since he was only about 50 years old in 1856, he must have still be
working at some profession, even if not as an artist.
Interestingly, I also found that Adolphe served 3 weeks in jail for
libel in 1840 in Sussex.
A previously unrecorded trade label on the back
of a circa 1840 silhouette gives the address 4, East St., Brighton,
which was the last address that McKechnie found for him. According to
McKechnie's book, Adolphe was listed in a business directory showing the
East Street address, which was a tobacconist's shop that was managed by
his first wife, Eloise. The trade label that I found states that,
at 4, East St., Adolphe was working at the Manographic
Institute. I have been unable to find any information about
the Manographic Institute or of Adolphe's first wife, Eloise.
William Bache, American Silhouettist
William Bache was born in Worcestershire,
England but hurried to Philadelphia at the age of 22 years. He
became established as a silhouettist almost as soon as he arrived and,
later, traveled to the Southern States and West Indies to ply his trade
as an itinerant artist. Bache and his partners, Augustus Day and
Isaac Todd patented a physiognotrace in Baltimore in 1803. (See
information about Day & Todd below.) Bache advertised "Cutting, shading and
painting of profile likenesses in a new and elegant style from long
experience and great success in business and aided by an improved Physiognotrace, feels confident of rendering general satisfaction."
Bache surely delivered great satisfaction with his elegant hollow cut
silhouettes, cut assuredly and made elegant with added India ink curls
on the border of the cutting and Chinese white highlights added to the
background paper. He referred to these stunning silhouettes as
"shaded profiles." Bache also showed his artistic expertise with
fully painted profiles, many which were reproduced in the 1920s
and are now being offered as period silhouettes. We know through
his scrapbook which descended through his family that he also cut many
cut & paste silhouettes, although some naysayers believe that the
silhouettes in Bache's duplicate books are "hole-in-the-donut"
silhouettes (the middle "waste" of a hollow-cut silhouette).
Scholars have basically debunked the hole-in-the-donut silhouette as
mislabeled. Whether or not you believe that it is possible to cut
a perfect hollow-cut silhouette and have a perfect image left afterwards
without any trace of a scissor entry, the fact is that if a silhouette
is cut as a positive image and pasted onto a background paper, it is a
cut & paste silhouette.
Part of Bache's scrapbook can be seen at the National Portrait Gallery's
facetoface. The National
Portrait Gallery acquired the books, which hold 1,846 images, numbered
below each profile and the back of the book contains a partial index of
sitters, identified by the numbers placed under the profile. I
have also owned one of Bache's cut & paste silhouettes, on the reverse
of a painted silhouette. The cut & paste was of the same figure on
the obverse of the background card. Bache added his impressed
stamp from the painted side, after he had pasted down the figure on the
reverse. The impressed stamp is partially through the actual cut
figure, showing in reverse.
In his short career, Bache cut or painted profiles of George and Martha
Washington as well as Martha's daughter Mrs. Lawrence Lewis (née Nelly
Cutis), Thomas Jefferson and Daniel Wadsworth, among others.
Bache's career was cut short when, sometime between 1812 and 1822, a
tree fell on him while chopping wood. As a result, Bache's right
arm was amputated. Bache was appointed postmaster of Wellsboro,
Pennsylvania and remained in that position until his death in 1845.
Christman, Margaret C.S., "Herein
Hangs a Tale, The Bache Silhouette Book", facetoface,
National Portrait Gallery Smithsonian Institute, August 13, 2008.
Fallon, Rosemary & Lockshin, Nora, "Which
Cracked First: The Inkin' or the Egg? Analysis and Treatment of Ink
Deterioration in the William Bache Silhouette Album",
The Book and Paper Group Annual 27 (2008), 123-24.
Painted figure on the obverse
Cut & paste figure on the reverse
William Dyce (or Dyer) Beaumont (active c. 1833-1850)
Beaumont's work is known for his use of sepia or dark brown paper from
which he cut elegant and graceful women which he accented with subtle
but highly unusual touches of color. Beaumont is known to have
worked since the 1830s although his early work is not as successful as
his later work. He cut men as well as women, but it is his women
which are the most highly sought. His women were well placed with
chairs of the early Victorian period and accessories such as ornate tea
tables, stools, books, morocco-bound leather books, music scores, and
sewing. Carpets are sometimes shown in color but to date we have
no record of further painted backgrounds. His silhouettes of the
1840s and beyond has been called "among the finest of the period."
McKechnie, Sue, British Silhouette Artists and their Work:
1760-1860 (Sotheby Park Bernet Publications, 1978) 190.
Woodiwiss said, "Beaumont enjoyed using colour and always did so with
the blending and discrimation of good taste. He arranged the
details of his grouping with infinite care and his silhouettes may
fairly be described as perfect examples of Victorian calm and breeding."
Woodiwiss, John, British Silhouettes (Country Life Limited 1965)
68. According to McKechine is known to have signed his silhouettes
"Beaumont", "W.H. Beaumont", W.H. Beaumont, fecit [date]." See
McKechnie at page 190. In 2005, Diane Joll of the Silhouette
Collectors Club reported that Christies sold Beaumont silhouettes
signed, "W.D. Beaumont" and "Dyce Beaumont" so we all assumed that
McKechnie was mistaken in saying that Beaumont signed with "H."
Recently, a pair of silhouettes sold on ebay with the signatures "W.
Dyer Beaumont, fecit, 1851". Therefore, we must also wonder
whether Ms. Joll was mistaken (she included no photo of the Christie's
silhouette signatures) or whether the pair on ebay had fake signatures
(the signatures of the two pieces bore somewhat different handwriting).
The simple neat signature "Beaumont" such as the one photographed on the
right is well-recorded on the majority of Beaumont's work. One
trade label has been recorded.
William Henry Brown, American
William Henry Brown was born and
died in Charleston, South Carolina. He worked as an engineer in
Philadelphia where he lived from 1824 until at least 1841. He began his
career as a silhouettist in the 1830s working first in New England and
then traveling widely throughout the South. Brown pursued his career as an
artist until at least 1859. After 1859, Brown is known to have resumed
his work as an engineer.
Although Brown is often compared to Edouart, he began cutting
silhouettes almost 15 years before Edouart ever set foot in America.
Brown made his debut as a silhouettist in 1824 with a full-length
silhouette of General Lafayette. Brown was a mere sixteen years old at
the time. Like Hubard, Brown was considered a child prodigy. Also like
Hubard and Edouart, Brown cut his silhouettes freehand with common
scissors. His embellishment is subtle and superbly rendered. His cutting
is considered one of the best—Alice Van Leer Carrick believes that
Brown’s silhouettes of men are better on the whole than those cut by
Brown often mounted his silhouettes on lithograph backgrounds,
made for him by the Kelloggs of Hartford. He is most well
known for his book Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans
published as a collection of full-length silhouettes with biographical
sketches and letters written by the subjects. The book was published in
1846 by E.B. & E.C. Kellogg. Almost the entire edition was destroyed by
fire and it is rare to find a complete copy of the book. Luckily, the
Kelloggs also published the individual silhouettes from Brown’s book as
lithographs. This lithography is most often what can be found on the
market from Brown’s career. Original silhouettes are difficult to find
despite the fact that Carrick believes he was as prolific as Edouart.
Besides the single figures that we most likely think of when hearing
Brown’s name, he was a most industrious artist who cut profiles of an
entire train, a fire brigade, and even a funeral procession. His
silhouette of the St. Louis Fire brigade contained an engine, two hose
carriages, and sixty-five firemen. The finished grouping was 25 feet
long! Brown’s rendition of “The De Witt Clinton” train is over six feet
long and may be viewed in the Connecticut Historical Society where it
has hung since Brown presented it to the Society himself.
Please view the W. H. Brown silhouette currently offered on the
Little is known about
William Chamberlain although his silhouettes epitomize everything that
is loved about American folk silhouettes.
Genealogy research tells us that he was born on April 3 (or 13),
1790, in Loudon, New Hampshire, the child of Captain Moses and Rebecca (Abbot)
Chamberlain. He married Mary Ann Baker in 1813 or 1814.
Together, they had one daughter, Mary Chamberlain, born in Loudon on
August 28, 1835. In the 1850 census, Chamberlain listed himself as
a chair-maker, leading us to speculate that either the life of an
itinerant silhouettist was not profitable or that he wanted to find a
way to stay home with his family. Chamberlain died at age 70 on
April 13, 1860. He was buried in the Plains Cemetery, Boscawen,
Carrick, in Shades of Our Ancestors tells us
that Chamberlain went on a two-year silhouette cutting tour through
Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York. His grand-daughter,
Mrs. Frederick McClure of Worcester, Massachusetts, gave to the American
Antiquarian Society ("AAS") eighty-nine
hollow-cut silhouettes done by Chamberlain and kept for himself.
Chamberlain cut the donated silhouettes during a two year period in
which he traveled New England in the 1820s, as an itinerant silhouette
artist. Mrs. McClure added a note to her
donation saying "He made the profiles with the aid of a profile machine.
He usually cut his profiles in duplicate, and these are the ones he
preserved." It is these eighty-nine silhouettes that allow us to
attribute work to Chamberlain because he never signed nor stamped his
Chamberlain's work is hollow cut. He cut the heads of his men,
left the collar and shirt front as an uncut part of the background
paper, then cut the shoulder to the end of the bust-line. He then
drew and painted the shirt and collar details. The women in his
duplicate folio are completely hollow cut, from the top of the head to
the bottom of the bust-line. I set about examining photocopies of
the 89 silhouettes in the duplicate folio sent to me by the AAS and
found that Chamberlain cut every silhouette in the folio with the same
bust-termination line. Every silhouette that we know with
certainty was cut by Chamberlain has a convex curve at the front of the
bust-line, coming up at a notch, then a concave curve to the back.
Almost every bust-length hollow cut man in which the collar and shirt
front are left uncut with drawn-in details has been attributed to
Chamberlain by uneducated dealers. Collectors should beware of
such misattributions and look for examples of Chamberlain's work before
spending a lot of money on a "Chamberlain" from a dealer who does not
specialize in silhouettes. Examples may be found in Carrick's book
and Silhouettes in America, 1790-1840 by Blume J. Rifken.1 I
am currently offering a copy of both of the reference books on the
photocopies of the silhouettes in the Chamberlain duplicate book, I must
disagree with Rifken's attribution to Chamberlain on pages 50-51.
While Chamberlain might have cut those silhouettes, the bust termination
is not the same as those in the duplicate book, which are the only ones
we know with certainly were made by Chamberlain.
Please view the Chamberlain silhouettes currently
in stock on the Silhouettes page.
Augustus Day (active 1800 - at least 1845)
Augustus Day was a carver, gilder, portraitist and silhouettist. He
advertised as a physiognotrace profilist in Charleston, South Carolina in 1804.
Most of his work seems to have been done in Philadelphia where he advertised as
carver and gilder (1800-1806, 1814-1821), looking glass maker (1823-1825), and
painter (1829-1833). His hollow cut silhouettes are impressed with a
stamped signature "DAY'S PATENT" and his painted silhouettes were hand signed
"Day Fecit". His very desirable painted silhouettes were either
black with soft painted hair tendrils and frilled ladies' collars painted
soft grey-blue tone; or the more desirable olive-green and elaborately gilt
embellished. His hollow cut silhouettes are more scarcely found than his
painted profiles and, indeed, are some of the most rare of signed American
De Hart's silhouette of George Washington
Scan from Van
Our Ancestors. Little, Brown & Company, Boston, 1928. Plate after
Sarah De Hart,
American Silhouettist (1759-1832)
Sarah De Hart was one of
the first American born silhouette artists and the earliest recorded
American woman silhouettist. She was born on February 13, 1759 in
Elizabethtown, NJ. (Although Charles Willson Peale is not known to have
started cutting silhouettes until 1802, he was born 18 years earlier
than De Hart, in Chestertown, MD in 1741.) De Hart’s earliest discovered
silhouette was cut when she was twelve years old, in 1771. Unlike the
majority of American silhouettists who would come later, De Hart cut her
hollow cut silhouettes without the aid of the physiognotrace devices
that were so popular in the 19th century. To date, no evidence has been
discovered showing that De Hart cut silhouettes for profit, but she
certainly captured the heart of George Washington for whom she cut
several likenesses after visiting Mount Vernon with Washington’s sister
Abigail Mayo in 1786. De Hart’s work is extremely rare (possibly because
she only cut silhouettes for her own pleasure and the pleasure of
friends and family). A group of about 130 of her works descended through
her family until 1946 when the collection was sold to a collector. The
collection was ultimately disbursed through auction in 1997.
John Dempsey (active circa
Little is known of John Dempsey's life. We know, through one of his
advertisements, that he worked as an itinerant silhouettist beginning in
the 1820s and that by 1840, he had cut silhouettes in England, Ireland
and Scotland. He advertised that he took "Likenesses in Shade
3d./Bronzed 6d./Coloured Is. 6d and upwards. . . . ." He is best
known for his full-length colored silhouettes, such as this one offered,
in which his skill as an artist shines. McKechnie tells us "Dempsey's
work in this field is so cleverly cut and pasted down that it is
sometimes almost impossible to see the cut edge. The edge is concealed
not by painting, but simply by skilled craftsmanship." McKechnie, Sue,
British Silhouette Artists and their Work: 1760-1860. Sotheby
Park Bernet, 1978 at 202. Indeed, this lady looks fully painted.
The edges of the pasted paper are so skillfully painted that you almost
need to remove the silhouette from the frame so that you can feel the
raised edge. Dempsey kept a sample book showing his
silhouette-making techniques. This was not a duplicate book, like
Edouart, Bache or Chamberlain kept, but a book from which customers
could pick the style of silhouette they preferred. The book included
India ink painted bust profiles as well as full length painted profiles
pasted to painted landscape backgrounds. Perhaps Dempsey's most
important work is a large conversation silhouette titled, Liverpool
Exchange showing eight-five figures upon a painted background showing
the Exchange Buildings of Liverpool. Edouart apparently felt
somewhat threatened by Dempsey's beautiful work. Edouart wrote
that the use of color in silhouettes was "harlequinades" and he
could not "understand how persons can have so bad and I may say, a
childish taste!" August Edouart, A Treatise on Silhouette
Likenesses, London, 1835. 24. It is generally understood among
silhouette scholars that Edouart was referring to Dempsey's work.
Edouart was always quick to lash out at those he felt most threatened
by. Obviously, he felt threatened by Dempsey's beautiful work.
William M.S. Doyle,
American Silhouettist (1769-1828)
William Massey Stroud
Doyle was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1769. His father was a
British soldier, but Doyle seems to have lived and worked his entire
life in Boston. Doyle was a silhouettist, artist of portraits of
both full-size and miniature. He worked in silhouette cutting,
watercolor, oil and pastel. His silhouettes were beautifully
rendered in hollow cut or paint (sometimes painted on plaster in the
manner of Miers).
Doyle did not
confine himself to his artistic endeavors. Indeed from 1806 until
his death in 1828, Doyle, in partnership with Daniel Bowen, was one of
the owners of the Columbian Museum. Together, the two men built a
five story building in 1806 to house the museum. The five story
building in 1806 towered over the surrounding landscape like a
skyscraper! Unfortunately, the building burned to the ground in
1807, and the two men built a smaller building which they used for the
museum until 1825.
In 1811, Doyle
placed the following advertisement:
Wm. M.S. Doyle
BOSTON, next House north of the Stone-Chapel, the late residence of R.G.
AMORY esq. Continues to execute Likenesses in Miniature and
Profiles of various sizes (the latter in shade or natural colors) in a
style peculiarly striking and elegant, whereby the most forcible
animation is obtained.
finished on composition in the manner of the celebrated Miers of London.
Profiles—from 25 cents to 1, 2, & 5 dollars.
Miniatures—12, 15, 18 and 20 dollars.
silhouettes certainly live up to his salesmanship in that they are
“peculiarly striking and elegant” and “the most forcible animation”
truly is obtained. Rarely do they real ones come onto the market
(although it is quite common to find 20th century fakes). What
few there were (for Doyle did more portrait painting that silhouette
cutting or painting) have all been snapped up into private collections
Please view the Doyle silhouettes currently
in stock on the Silhouettes page.
Edouart, born in the French harbour-town of
Dunkerque, was a decorated member of Napoleon’s army. After the war, he
was forced to move to England when he lost most of his property during the
Evacuation of Holland. Like many French émigrés of that day, Edouart
first tried to make a living teaching French. Finding too many rivals to
excel as a teacher, this gifted artist turned his attention to hair art.
Edouart made the intricate hair pictures that we are familiar with as
mourning art, the plaited and floral ornaments which are commonly seen,
and also wax portraits in which he embedded the natural hair to give a
natural appearance. He excelled in the field of hair art in the
same way as he would later exceed in silhouette cutting.
Edouart began silhouette cutting as the result of a heated argument
with a friend who wished to commission a silhouette by an artist who
used a mechanical contraption to cut profiles. In an effort to show
that mechanics were inferior, Edouart sat the gentleman down, seized a
pair of scissors from a nearby desk, blackened a quickly torn piece of
paper with candle snuffers and snipped a silhouette of superior quality
to that which the family had planned to commission. Edouart is said to
have cut perfectly executed silhouettes in less than 2 minutes.
Edouart spent 24 years cutting what has been estimated as more than
one hundred thousand silhouettes. He have believed that Edouart coined the term “silhouettist”
because he was insulted by the then-common term “black-shade man.” By
1826, Edouart was cutting silhouettes exclusively of his hair work. He
cut two original profiles of every sitting and kept one of each of the
originals, named and dated, in his many folios. In 1835, Edouart wrote
and published a book, A Treatise on Silhouette Likenesses.
Edouart traveled throughout England, continuously cutting silhouettes
before first coming to America in 1839. He stayed in this country for
ten years, cutting and cataloging silhouettes of the most important
Americans of the time. Edouart cut silhouettes of six Presidents and
ex-Presidents, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Supreme Court Chief Justice
Joseph Story, and Madame Jumel who became the model for Charles Dickens’
mad Mrs. Havisham in Great Expectations to name a few.
In 1849, Edouart set out to return to England on the ill-fated ship,
Oneida, which wrecked off the island of Guernsey. Although all of the
passengers and crew were saved, only fourteen of Edouart’s folios were
rescued. Broken-hearted by the loss of his life’s work, Edouart
abandoned his profession and returned to France where he died at the age
of 72. Edouart gave the rescued folios to the Lukis family, who had
cared for him during the months following the shipwreck. There the
folios stayed until, in 1911, Mrs. F. Nevill Jackson advertised to buy
silhouettes for research she was conducting. The Lukis family sold the
precious folios to her. Mrs. Jackson meticulously cataloged each
silhouette. Where the background paper was waterlogged, she carefully
removed the silhouettes and placed them on new background paper. Upon
removal, she was delighted to find that Edouart had written the name of
the sitter and date on the back of each silhouette as well as the bottom
of each page. Mrs. Jackson cut keyholes into the new background paper so
that Edouart’s written description could be seen. Where possible, she
also cut his written descriptions from the bottom of the original folio
pages and pasted them to the bottom of the new pages.
Mrs. Jackson eventually sold the six folios with American silhouettes
to Arthur Vernay of New York. Mr. Vernay sold the majority of the
American duplicates at a 3-week sale in 1913. One remaining unbroken American
folio was kept by Mr. Vernay and made the subject of Auguste Edouart's
Silhouettes of Eminent Americans, 1839-1844, by Andrew Oliver. Eight
hundred sixty-two individual American duplicates were eventually sold to
renown silhouette collector Reverend Glenn Tilley Morse.
Edouart is known for his simple and lifelike full-bodied silhouettes
which are ripe with action. He used no colored embellishment, denouncing
gilding, coral necklaces, and colored dresses as harlequinades. Although
Edouart pronounced that “the representation of a shade can only be
executed by an outline,” beginning in 1842, he sometimes penciled or
chalked indications of hair, the lines of a coat, buttons and fingers.
His ultimate surrender to the use of some embellishment was probably a
nod to the overtaking of his profession by the daguerreotypists.
However, he always refused to use bronzing or any other color in the
embellishment of his figures.
Edouart cut and assembled compositions of entire families, often
backing them with stock lithographs of room or
outdoor settings. Less common are his watercolor backgrounds in sepia
tones. What is expected and delightfully delivered in the Edouart
silhouettes are accessories such as hats, canes, letters--even family
pets. His silhouette of Mrs. Mary Appleton depicts her cutting a
silhouette herself. The tiny additional profile is said to be remarkably
recognizable as Mrs. Appleton’s husband.
The Westcott Family
Black cut-paper, ink, sepia, graphite and watercolour on
31,2 x 46,7 cm
Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, purchase (87.35)
Exhibited on this website with permission of the museum.
I am very pleased to be able to show you an Edouart silhouette, complete
with watercolor, graphite and ink background as commissioned by the
James R. Westcott family of Saratoga Springs alongside Edouart's
duplicate silhouette of the Westcott family as taken from the rescued
folios. You will notice that the commissioned silhouette (to the
immediate left) includes (from left to right) daughter Marie, wife Mary,
son James Gardner Westcott, and father James Randell Wescott. The
duplicate (to the immediate right) includes Marie and Louisa (or Louise)
P. Westcott, wife Mary and James R. Wescott. Remember that when
Mrs. Jackson bought the rescued folios from the Lukis family, many of
the silhouettes were missing from the pages as a result of their trip to
the bottom of the bay. Apparently, James Gardner Westcott was one
of the missing folio silhouettes. The commissioned silhouette of the Westcott
family is dated 1840 and Marie, Mary and James R. are dated 1841 in the
folio. I have absolutely no explanation for why the dates are
different on the commissioned silhouette and the folio silhouettes. Louisa is dated 1843
in the folio and only she bears the faint chalk line
embellishment that Edouart used starting in 1842. I surmise that
Louisa was a member of James Randell Westcott's extended family who had
her silhouette cut later. Edouart often went back in the folio to
add a later-cut family member or add a notation about a death or
marriage of a sitter. It would not have been unusual for him to
have added Louisa to the Westcott family page later. We know she
was placed on the same folio page as Marie before Mrs. Jackson restored the
silhouettes because their names are written together on the inscription
that Mrs. Jackson cut from the damaged folio page and pasted to the
bottom of the later paper. Many thanks to the Musée national
des beaux-arts du Québec for granting permission to display a
photo of the commissioned silhouette for this website.
Marie E. Wescott, Louisa (or Louise) P. Wescott, Mary A.
Wescott, James R. Wescott, Saratoga Springs, all dated 1841 except
Louisa who is dated 1841.
ex-Mrs. F. Nevill Jackson & Mr. Arthur Vernay
Please view the Edouart silhouettes currently
in stock on the Silhouettes page.
his career was spent working for John Miers Studio. Please see the
entry for Miers below.
Please view the Field silhouettes currently
in stock on the Silhouettes page.
Edward Foster (1762-1864)
was born November 8, 1762, two years into the reign of the monarch who
would become his most important, George III. Foster's father was a
gentleman land-steward and mother was the child of nobility. He
joined the Derbyshire militia at the age of 17 and remained in the
military for 25 years. Once Foster retired from the military at
age 42, he turned his attention to his artistic talents where he earned
a fine reputation as a painter of miniatures and profiles. King
George III appointed Foster the "Official Miniature Painter to the Royal
Family" and moved him into lavish apartments in the Round Tower of
Windsor Palace. Foster set up his business as a professional
silhouettist in London around 1811 on The Strand. It was around the year
1811 that Foster began using papier mâché
frames with a special brass hanger bearing his name above the Royal
crown, meaning his appointment as Offical Miniature Painter must have
been made by at least this date. In addition to working
from his studio, Foster traveled as an itinerant artist. It
appears that Foster returned to Derby in about 1832, during which year
he was seventy-two years old. Never one to rest on his laurels,
Foster began drawing and printing educational maps and charts for school
use. He was married five times and had at least 17 children, only
one of whom survived his death at 102 years old in 1864.1
Foster's silhouette profiles were fully painted (not cut). His
work is generally categorized as two types: "black profiles" with
which he appears to have launched his career and later "red profiles."
For his black profiles, he used thin black paint with detail added with
pigment added to gum arabic and, sometimes, Chinese white. His
"red profiles" are created with Venetian red and reddish-brown to which
he added touches of gold and Chinese white. He used a three-dot
technique to depict the transparency of the fabrics of women's dresses.
Neck and shirt frills were generally left without color.
1 Peter Seddon,
Derbyshire Life Magazine, July 2009 at 170-173.
Also see a great article about Edward Foster by Brett Payne at
F. & H.A. Frith (after
These brothers worked for much of their career as the Royal Victoria
Gallery. Please see
Royal Victoria Gallery below.
Please view the
Frith silhouette currently
in stock on the Silhouettes page.
John Gapp (active
The Royal Suspension Pier (aka The Royal Chain Pier) was the first
major pier built in Brighton, England. When built in 1823, it was
intended as a landing stage for incoming ships. But Brighton provided a
variety of amusements to draw tourists and the spaces between the
cast-iron towers from which the chains were suspended soon attached
profilists to set up shop in order to provide tourists with a memento of
their visit to Brighton. John Gapp set up at the Third Tower in 1828 or
earlier and seemed to have an ongoing rivalry with another silhouettist,
Edward Haines, who had a similar style and had a gallery in the First
Gapp’s trade labels announce that he produced “likenesses from the
scissors only” and that he captured “the expression and peculiarity of
character are brought into action in a very superior style.” By 1830,
Gapp’s trade label proclaimed “that he has no connexion with any other
Person”. This is the first notice of his rivalry with Haines. Gapp’s
price list is given as follows:
Full-length Likeness 2s 6d.
Two Full-length Likenesses
4s. 0d. for two
Likeness in Bronze 4s. 0d.
Profile to the Bust 1s. 0d.
Two of the same as above 1s.
Ladies and Gentlemen on
Horseback 7s. 6d.
Single Horses 5s. 0d
Dogs 1s. 6d.
Gapp's naïve cut & paste silhouettes are almost always full length
and his subjects almost always have something in their hands. He seemed
to have trouble depicting two legs without having the legs look too
thick, so, early in his career, he started perching his sitters on what
appeared to be one leg with two feet. The cut details of his clothing
has been called "spikey" because of the very definitive corners that he
cut. His figures are mounted on card with either a simple watercolor
wash ground or no background at all. He seldom
embellished his work.
Hinton Gibbs (active late 1790s - c. 1822)
(incorrectly recorded by Jackson as "Hintor Gibbs") spent most of his
profilist career in the militia. His army career appears to have
started as a drummer in 1793 while he was probably a teenager.
Gibbs appears to have reached the rank of corporal, apparently leaving
the army shortly before the Battle of Waterloo. At least four if
Gibbs' known trade labels appear to have been used during his military
career. After leaving the army, Gibbs seems to have worked in
Gibbs painted silhouettes on the reverse of convex glass using two
different methods. One style was almost entirely in solid black
while the other was done with the finest detail leaving a transparent
look to the black paint. He produced incredible detail by
scratching the surface of the finger-painted black base with a needle
and appears to have rendered detail outside the basic profile with a
fine brush. Gibbs appears to have saved this highly detailed style
for the profiles of women and children. The accuracy of Gibbs'
depiction of women's clothing has given us great insight into the styles
of the period.
Generally, Gibbs backed his work with wax. Most of the wax has become
damaged or has been removed. Gibbs painted his early work on thick
glass and framed them in oval turned wood frames. He painted his
later works on convex glass of normal thickness and set them in papier
Please view the
Hinton Gibbs silhouette currently
in stock on the Silhouettes page.
J.H. Gillespie, Profile Artist
James H. Gillespie
started his career as a painter of miniature portraits and silhouettes
in England as early as 1810, although the earliest known dated example
of his work was done in 1816. He crossed the globe to enter Nova Scotia
in the 1820s. From Canada, he migrated into the United States where he
is known to have worked in Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and
Maine. His advertisements tell us that he charged 25 cents
for plain black profiles, 50 cents for profiles shaded in black, 1
dollar to finish the silhouettes in bronze and 2 dollars for “Features
neatly painted in colours.” The outlines for his silhouettes and
portraits were achieved by means of “several mechanical and optical
instruments.” His demand was so great that, to save time that the
sitter needed be present, he took outlines of the sitters in the morning
and completed the rest of the portrait later that same day. The
demand for Gillespie's work also allowed him to increase the price of
his color portraits from $2 to $4 by the time he hit Baltimore in 1837.
By 1842, Gillespie's U.S. tour was finished and he was working in
Toronto, where he stayed until at least 1849.
miniature portraits and silhouettes with a practiced and careful hand.
The features are crisply delineated and his painting style is similar to
the work of an artist who painted portraits on ivory. I am, however,
unaware of any portraits on ivory that have been attributed to him. His
silhouettes are generally found painted in shades of dark grey with
black pigment added to show clothing details. His use of gum Arabic to
heighten detail is masterful and subtle. Several monotone portraits
backed by dark grey painted background have been found and are quite
As a result of
their recent research into the life and work of Gillespie, Suzanne and
Michael Payne note that Gillespie worked in six distinctive styles:
Simple silhouette--profile head and neck painted in grey-black with
gum arabic highlights of the ear, eye, and the hair. No
watercolor detail added. The Paynes tell us this was his 25-cent
Silhouette face with painted body--profile face painted grey-black
with body carefully outlined and then painted in dark colors. No
gum arabic detailing the face or hair, but painted hair strands added.
Eyelashes are drawn with delicate brushstrokes. Neck between face
and body is outlined, with details added. Extensive use of gum
arabic to highlight the clothing. According to the Paynes, this
was his 50-cent profile.
White face on black background--profiled face shows the features
carefully modeled using pencil, ink, and grey wash watercolor details.
The painted grey-black (carefully painted with no brushstrokes) provides
contrast. Sitter's clothing is depicted in a grey-black that is
either slightly lighter or darker than the background. Thick gum
arabic highlights the clothing with a very think line of gum arabic
defining the bust. This monochromatic style appear to be the
portrait that Gillespie advertised as "in imitation of Copper-Plate
busts." These portraits sold for 5 shillings while he was working
in England. My own notation to the Paynes' descriptions of this
style is that I have seen several on which the background and features
are painted a brownish-copper color that closely seems to imitate the
sepia tones of many copper plate prints of the period. To the left
you can see an example with the grey-black and one with the
brownish-copper painting. Recently, I have acquired a portrait done in
imitation of copper plate print but with a touch of color added in the
young girl's red hair.
Silhouette with bronzed highlights--profile painted grey-black with
bronze paint highlights used for hair, ear, necklace, and dress.
According to the Paynes, Gillespie charged $1 for this portrait style.
Watercolor profile portrait--profile painted with watercolor, ink
and pencil used to model the features. A distinctive background
shading provides what Gillespie advertised as "drapery". This
background provides a good means for identifying his work. Shading
around the perimeter of the portrait is achieved with large dabs of dark
browns and blues concentrated on the lower right and left sides of the
figure and a light blue color applied with minute brushstrokes on the
top. The darker drapery catches the viewer's eye first and draws
it towards the face. A few examples have only light blue
coloration around the entire perimeter of teh portrait. Clothing
usually painted in dark tones of black or blue, with colored buttons or
jewelry and gum arabic highlights. These oval portraits have been
found in lockets, wood frames, and stamped brass frames. It
appears that Gillespie produced more of this style in the U.S. than the
other five styles. The Paynes tell us that this is the style that
Gillespie first offered for $2 and later for $4.
Less detailed watercolor profile portrait--profile face is less
modeled and simpler than style 5. The body is less elaborately
drawn and there is no background shading. This style has only been
found framed in a square format. This style has been found with
sitters from Maine and Canada. Gillespie's price for this style is
Payne, Suzanne Rudnick and Payne, Michael R., "Six Choices for the
Sitter, James H. Gillespie (1793-after 1849)", Antiques & Fine Art,
200 (Summer/Autumn 2008) (online article at
Sarah Harrington (active about 1774-1787)
Sarah Harrington is an enigma to say the least. Her successful career as
a silhouettist might lead one to believe she was an 18th century
proponent of women’s rights, but that does not appear to be the case.
Mrs. Harrington (for I would not expect her to approve if I referred to
her as Ms.) began her notoriety by authoring a book of instructions of
ladies’ virtues. Her book, which was published in at least 4 editions
was dedicated to Princess Amelia Sophia Eleanor. The dedication reads
Your ineffable mildness, and amiable disposition, accompanied by
a noble and generous expansion of heart, are virtues that will
naturally encourage and invite the timorous; attracted by those
realities, with deference and respect I approach your Highness, . .
. , upon consideration of with the Author has done her best for the
service of her sex; I have endeavoured (as far as my weak abilities
would permit) to contribute my mite in the promotion of sound and
useful Knowledge, with an humble endeavour to point out the most
effectual means of rendering permanently happy, not my own sex in
particular, but the whole nation in general. . . . .
Mrs. Harrington’s book discussed the permissible amusements of an
18th century lady: 1. The Use of the Globes (which Mrs. H. taught—to
ladies only); 2. Geography and Maps (part of the above described
lessons); 3. Astronomy; 4. Reading; 5. Epistolary Correspondence, or
Letter Writing; 6. Poetry; 7. Music; 8. Drawing. The book also described
the proper Entertaining Amusments: 1. Dancing; 2. Theatrical
Entertainments; and 3. Singing, etc.
The proper Mrs. Harrington later published a treatise on the
knowledge and use of maps as well as a second treatise of proper womanly
amusements. In this second treatise, she deplored “the amazing increase
of Dissipations of almost every kind, at present seems to fascinate our
minds, and occasion an almost total neglect of those Refinements so
necessary to real happiness of human beings.”
In light of Mrs. Harrington’s concern of the properness of ladies’
activities, it seems out of character that she became so successful in
her profession as a silhouettist, that in 1775, Sarah Harrington applied
to patent her method of producing profiles. Her patent was accepted and
she became a very successful itinerant artist.
Apparently, Mrs. Harrington’s silhouette business was extremely
lucrative in university towns. Numerous advertisements aimed at “the
Gentlemen of the University” show that she worked in Oxford and
Cambridge often and that, as time advanced, her lodgings (where she also
accepted customers) were found at more distinguishable addresses.
Hollow-cut silhouettes are rare from the British Isles after 1790.
During the period that Mrs. Harrington cut her lovely hollow-cut
silhouettes, few others joined her (the most notable exceptions are Mrs.
Beetham and Mrs. Collins). Mrs. Harrington did not use trade labels
until after 1782. Her earlier silhouettes are rarely inscribed with her
signature on the back of the frames. It is believed that since she was
one of the earliest silhouettists, she did not have sufficient
competition to warrant labeling her work until the 1780s.
Mrs. Harrington’s work is recognized by the roughly textured
black paper she used to back her exquisitely cut silhouettes. Also, while most
18th century silhouettists of the hollow-cut method often left a slash
from the base of the paper to the base of the bust-line showing the
knife entry to the paper, Mrs. Harrington took great care in making the
entry of her knife as little noticeable as possible. She also took great
care when rendering eyelashes and cut bows very simply and cleanly. She
represented men’s shirt frills as scallops and cut the buttons on a
man’s shirt as triangles.
Charles Samuel Hervé
Charles Samuel Hervé II was a
miniature painter, silhouette artist, professor of music, manager of the
Prosopographus gallery and a fruit farmer. He worked at various
addresses in London under his own name and with his nephew, Alfred Hervé,
Count de la Monnière.
Recent research shows that Hervé was probably the mysterious
“Prosopographus, the Automation Artist.” Handbills have been found
showing that Hervé managed the mysterious gallery which appears to have
been active from 1818 until the end of the 1820s. In fact, the found
handbills advertised that Hervé invented the illustrious “Prosopographus,”
a machine that drew the basic outline of the sitter’s profile. It is
believed that Hervé’s assistants procured the basic outline via the
machine, but Hervé cut and painted the silhouettes.
Hervé also worked for William Miers for a period of about 5 years.
William Miers was the son of the great silhouettist John Miers. William
was a profilist in his own right, but concentrated his work primarily on
frame-making. It appears that Miers hired Hervé to produce copies of
John Meirs’ great work for later orders. Hervé is known to have been an
exceptional artist at copying other’s styles and works as well as
producing extraordinary silhouettes from life in his own great style.
When working from his own gallery, Hervé used stencils to identify
his work, as did his nephew Alfred. Stencils showing only the Hervé
surname must be assumed to be Charles. As the elder family artist, he
would have the right to the surname. Alfred’s stencils, while similar in
style and fonts, identify the artist as “A. Hervé.”
Please view the Hervé silhouettes currently
in offered on the Silhouettes page.
Martha Ann Honeywell (about 1787-after 1848)
Martha Ann Honeywell was a child prodigy. While her silhouettes are more
naïve, even a bit clumsy than Master Hubard’s, part of the charm of Miss
Honeywell’s silhouettes is the triumph to human accomplishments that she
could even produce them at all. Miss Honeywell was born around 1787 in
Lempster, New Hampshire with only the first joints of both arms, and one
foot with only three toes. The first broadsides announcing her
profession of profile cutting appear in 1806 and continue until 1848.
The signature on Miss Honeywell’s cut & paste silhouettes proclaims
without hands by M.A. Honeywell” or "Cut with the Mouth by
M. A. Honeywell". Most of the silhouettes are plain, but
a few gilded examples have been recorded.
While Miss Honeywell was traveling along the Eastern shore board of
America and to Europe to cut her silhouettes, she also offered finely
stitched needlepoint watch papers, wrote tiny verse with her mouth and
did Scherenschnitte (scissor-cuttings). Pictured are examples of
both—the needlepoint is wonderfully executed and the verse is so tiny it
requires a magnifying glass to read. With magnification, one sees
that it is the entire Lord's Prayer, written within less than
three-quarters of an inch of paper.
Please view the Honeywell silhouette currently
in offered on the Silhouettes page.
Attributed to Howard
Penknife Slashed Hair
Attributed to Howard
Attributed to Howard
Everet Howard, American Silhouettist (1787-1833)
Everet Howard, my favorite American silhouette artist, was born in
Bridgewater, Massachusetts, November 22, 1787. His family moved to
Leeds, Maine in 1801. He taught school for a time but, tired of teaching
unruly young scholars, he quit his job and began to look for something
else to do. Always a budding artist, Howard loved to “draught
likenesses” of friends and dabbled in landscapes. In April, 1807, Howard
“got a good horse to ride to the Westward” and commenced making
preparations to journey west, through New Hampshire, Vermont and New
York. It isn’t clear what Howard intended to for money—perhaps he would
find another schoolmaster position or visit with relatives as his
brother had done. But, a few days before his scheduled departure, Howard
decided to “invent” a profile machine and become a profile artist. He
worked on his “invention” for half of a day and then proceeded to take
profiles. Howard improved on the design over the next week then,
happening upon an itinerant profilist, replaced his own homemade machine
by making a trade for the machine of the other artist. Then he set out
to make his fame and fortune as a silhouettist. Howard did quite well as
a last minute artist. He traveled and worked in much of Maine and
showed up in the New York City Business Directory for the years 1813 and
1816. We have no records for other cities, but we assume he worked in
other parts of New England. There are no known silhouettes by Howard
with a handwritten signature, but a few of his silhouettes have been
found with the embossed signature EVERET HOWARD from the stamp that we
know he bought in Brunswick, Maine.
Everet Howard’s silhouettes are a wonderful example of just how
creative a machine-traced silhouette can be. The profiles are sharp and
lifelike—indeed technically well done. But what creates the great
distinction in Howard’s silhouettes are the flourishes he used for the
bust-lines or below the bust-lines. Wonderfully representative of
Howard’s work is the silhouette of Mary Butterfield which ends in a
great double curlicue. Similarly (but with its own charm and
differentiation) is the male member of the pair shown here. Howard
finished this gentleman, not only with the curlicue, but also a
separately cut flourish below the profile. The girl shown in the verre
églomisé mat exhibits another of Howard’s trademarks, the use of a
pen-knife to slash cut the hair. Howard's style shows how a
machine-traced silhouette can be enlivened after the tracing with
creativity and artistic flourish.
The lucky few who own the rarely found silhouettes by Everet Howard
own American folk art treasures. Rarely are they found with the embossed
signature, but much of Howard’s work is so distinctive that they can be
Master William James Hubard, Child
Prodigy Silhouettist (1807-1862)
Hubard Gallery (active 1823- circa 1845)
Born in Whitchurch
Shropshire, England Master Hubard began cutting silhouettes at 12 years
of age. He was a celebrated silhouette artist (some say an exploited
child prodigy) even before he came to America in 1824 at the ripe old
age of 17. By the age of 15, Master Hubard had been called upon to cut
the silhouettes of the Duchess of Kent and Queen Victoria (who was still
a slender little princess at the time). In 1823, the editor of a
newspaper in Norwich exclaimed “We do not hesitate to pronounce Master
H. the greatest phenomenon of art that this city ever witnessed, . . .”
In 1824, he landed on American soil in New York at the ripe old age
of 17. In New York Hubard set up the Hubard
Gallery at 24 Coney Street and charged 50 cents per profile. I've only
seen one silhouette which Master Hubard hand-signed ("James Hubard").
His silhouettes are generally stenciled
“Hubard Gallery” onto the back, use an impressed mark stating simply
“Hubard”, or either the silhouette or frame is backed by one of numerous printed
trade labels. After Hubard left, the Gallery used impressed
stamps saying “Hubard Gallery” or “Taken At The Hubard Gallery” and also
numerous trade labels continuing to tout the talent of Hubard even though the
silhouettes were being cut by other artists.
silhouettes cut by Hubard are more commonly found than busts.
Although the earliest were not embellished, Hubard became a master at
gilt embellishment before the end of his silhouette career. Unlike many of his
contemporaries, Master Hubard never relied upon contraptions or
machinery for aid in cutting his silhouettes—only common scissors. His
silhouettes are always cut & paste.
In 1827, Hubard broke from his manager (known only as "Mr. Smith") and took up portrait painting
under the tutelage of Gilbert Stuart. We know from his letters that he
occasionally continued to cut silhouettes
even after becoming an accomplished portrait artist. During the 1850s, Hubard became interested in sculpture and established a foundry in
Richmond, Virginia for casting bronzes. When the Civil War started,
Hubard turned his attention to inventing and producing an explosive for
use by the Confederate Army. He was killed at his foundry by an
McKechnie tells us that Hubard's early manager, Mr. Smith, continued
to run the Hubard Gallery as a going concern until about 1845. We
know that Master Jarvis (or Jervis) Hankes (or Hanks) was cutting
silhouettes for the Hubard Gallery before Hubard broke with Smith.
McKechnie believed that Hankes continued with the Gallery for some years
after Hubard left. McKechnie also found evidence that Samuel
Thomas Gill advertised himself as having at onetime worked for the
Hubard Gallery. The fact that the Hubard Gallery employed several
artists and the fact that Hubard continued to occasionally cut
silhouettes both in America and abroad makes it very difficult to
determine the origins of silhouettes cut after 1823.
Hansen-Knarhoi, Megan, "'Silhouette
of man 1' - Taken At The Hubard Gallery",
Please view the Hubard and Hubard Gallery silhouettes currently
in stock on the Silhouettes page.
Jones (active First
Quarter 19th Century)
Little is known about the American silhouettist T.P. Jones. He
may be the artist that Mrs. Jackson refers to as "F.P.Jones"
in her book Silhouettes A History and Dictionary of Artists.
In 2007, ebay sold a pair of silhouettes clearly stamped "F.P. JONES /
FECIT". Since I did not see the F.P. Jones pair in person, I can
not vouch for their authenticity as a 19th century pair. It is
possible that a company such as Foster Brothers created the pair as a
reproduction, using Mrs. Jackson's reference as their example.
Dictionary of Artists in America 1564-1860 by Groce and Wallace says
of T.P. Jones, "Silhouetteist working in the vecinity of Schenectady
(N.Y.) in 1808. Cf. F. P. Jones ¶ Baker, "The Story of Two
Silhouettes," repro." Of F.P. Jones, Groce says, "Itinerant
silhouettist of early 19th century, New England. Cf. ___ Jones,
portrait painter at NYC in 1818 and T.P. Jones, silhouettist at
Schenectady (N.Y.) in 1808. ¶ Carrick, Shades of Our Ancestors,
120." Are T.P. and F.P. Jones the same person? I do not yet
have the answer to that.
Thanks to the research of Sue Anderson, we do
now know that T.P. Jones and Isaac Todd worked together in New York City
from at least April through June 22, 1805. They advertised on
April 1, 1805, in the American Citizen that they had united for
profile likenesses on William Street. On June 22, 1805, the two
artists advertised in the Republican Watch Tower, that
they had removed to Maiden Lane. By August 13, 1805, Jones
advertised alone in the Evening Post of NYC.
According to the
family history passed along with one of the silhouettes that I once
owned, T.P. Jones was still working in New York City in 1826 when he cut
the silhouette of Elizabeth Read(e), second cousin, once removed, to
General George Washington.
T.P. Jones work beautifully executed hollow
cut bust length profiles with a sloping bust termination. His
sitters have a small cut eyelash and his women usually display a
delicate lock of hair above the forehead. They are quite scarce
and heavily sought by collectors.
Lady Letitia Louisa Kerr was an
amateur artist who painted portrait miniatures and cut profiles of her
family and friends. Her talent and skill is unquestionable and her
silhouettes are much prized. It is thought that Lady Louisa may have
been a talented landscape or flower painter as her silhouettes are
always backed by beautifully painted watercolor scenes. She remained
single most of her life but married Cortlandt-George Macgregor, a
retired captain from the 1st Dragoon Guards in 1871 which probably
signaled the end of her artistic pursuits. Lady Louisa was the eldest
daughter of Charlotte, Countess of Antrim and Vice-Admiral Lord
William King (known
William King was a man of many talents but, as some might say, with a
wayward disposition. We know King as a cabinet maker, turner, and profilist. He was born sometime in the last half of the 18th century in
Salem, Massachusetts. While considered by many to be a genius, he also
bore the qualities of a scamp.
In 1785, King was mentioned in the diary of Reverend William Bentley
as living with King’s father-in-law, Deacon Phippen. A 1787 diary entry
by Rev. Bentley stated:
A William King related to the family of Hodges, Webb, Stone & Mason
by their wives, after having been long absent in the West Indies, about
four years ago returned, and married a daughter of Deacon Phippen, by
whom he had one child & the prospect of another. This W.K. being very
capricious left his family, without any warning wrote a letter of his
intentions to abscond, without be pressed for debt, or other visible
reasons. He was pursued, apprehended near East Haven in Connecticut, by
the owner of his Sulky & Horse, gave his note for 16 pounds damage, and
has returned again after a fortnight’s absence.
Alice Van Leer Carrick, Shades of our Ancestors, pgs. 46-47.
In 1789, King was apparently still living with his family since he
was advertising in the Salem Mercury as an ivory-turner selling canes,
dice, backgammon boards, billiard balls and the like.
Then in 1796, Rev. Bentley wrote:
News from Philadelphia, that Wm. King, belonging to a good family in
this Town, after having dragged his family from Town to Town, left a
note that he meant to drown himself and disappeared. It is supposed that
he means to ramble unencumbered. The family are to return to Salem.
Through known advertisements, it appears that King began cutting
profiles around 1804. In that year, his advertisements also mentioned
his turned works of ivory, wood and iron. In 1805, King advertised in
Boston and no longer mentioned his turnings. In 1806, he was in Hanover,
NH and claimed to have cut more than 20,000 silhouettes in Salem,
Newburyport, Portsmouth, Portland and all of their adjoining towns.
Despite King’s boast of cutting so many silhouettes, examples are
difficult to find and much sought after. In her important book Shades of
Our Ancestors, Ms. Carrick called him one of her favorite
hollow-cutters. As she said, King had a knack of “seeing people
Little is known about the artist Merryweather. The rare
examples of his or her work shows that Merryweather cut silhouettes in
black paper against a watercolor wash base composed of concentric
circles. The figures are lightly brushed embellishment of gold.
Children are represented with toys or baskets of flowers. Mrs. F.
Neville Jackson mentions a trade label, but does not give detail.
Sue McKechnie states that the Merryweather in her collection had a
handwritten inscription, "By Merryweather, Profilist" on the
verso. She also tells us that the silhouette illustrated in her
book (extremely similar to the figure shown here) bore the handwritten
inscription, "Cut by Merryweather, Profilist".
Samuel Metford (1810-1890)
Samuel Metford was born in 1810 to a Quaker family in Glastonbury,
Somerset, England. He moved to America around 1834 and became a
naturalized American citizen. Metford seems to have centered his profile
cutting in Connecticut although he is also known to have worked in New
York and South Carolina. He likely also plied his trade in other states.
Metford continued working in until 1844 when he moved back to England.
He made two more trips to America in between 1865 and 1867. It is
unknown whether he cut profiles during the later trips to America as no
examples have been found that appear to date to the 1860s. Most books
list the date of Metford’s death as 1890. However, Sue McKechnie states
that Metford died in 1896.
Although Metford generally placed his cut & paste silhouettes on
watercolor wash backgrounds, some examples have been found with
lithograph backgrounds. He signed his silhouettes as either “S. Metford”
or “Sam’l Metford.”
Metford’s work is sought for its rich embellishments which he
perfected to a much greater degree than most 19th century silhouettists.
He embellished his silhouettes in either gold, Chinese white, or
Miers (1758-1821) and John
John Miers is considered the finest silhouettist of the 18th century.
Miers’ father was a painter by trade, having purchased a business which
did “Coach Painting and Undertaking for Funerals in general as usual.”
Although the young Miers helped his father in the business, there is no
evidence that this artist who is considered one of the greatest profilists in the history of art ever received formal artistic training.
His painted silhouettes on plaster or ivory are prized by astute
In 1781, the young, recently married Miers began his own business as
a painter, gilder, and profilist in Leeds. He advertised that he took
“Most striking Likenesses taken in One Minute upon an entire New Plan.”
After 5 years of advertising his “new Method” or “Peculiar Plan (which
is allowed superior to any other in the Kingdom),” Miers hit a snag when
he discovered that Miss Mary Lightfoot, the daughter of one with whom he
had lodged had traveled to Scotland and attempted to establish herself
as a profilist by copying his techniques. He fought against Miss
Lightfoot’s theft with a very explicit advertisement condemning her
activities. It appears that his advertisement worked, as Miss Lightfoot
seems to have disappeared from the scene.
In 1791, Miers began using the trade label which backs the offered
silhouette and is known as “Trade Label No. 11.” This label was used
from 1791 until c. 1810. When Trade Label No. 11 came into use, Miers
ceased to be the only artist working under his name. In fact, most of
the silhouettes of this period were painted by others.
During this period, John Field began working for Miers. Field proved
to be the most talented of the silhouettists working under Miers and by
1823 Miers son, William, and Field became partners in the studio of
Miers and Field.
Field’s silhouettes are distinctive in the transparency of the
ruffled areas of the sitter’s clothing and by the characteristic dip at
the back of the curved bust-line. These features would remain a
distinctive quality in Field’s work for the rest of his career. Later in
his career, Field painted silhouettes on card with great flourish,
detail and bronzing. While working for Miers, however, his silhouettes
on plaster were in black with white added only for transparent detailing
at the edge of the silhouettes, or light bronzing on silhouettes painted
Peale (1741-1827) and Moses
Williams (1777-about 1825)
Charles Willson Peale, born in Chestertown, Maryland, is perhaps the
most famous of the American-born profilists, and certainly known as a
jack-of-all-trades. Known as the “Artist of the Revolution” he is most
well known for his wonderful oil portraits of the most important of our
country’s ancestors, including George and Martha Washington, and
Revolutionary War General Horatio Gates.
Peale was a saddler, harness-maker, clock and watch-maker,
silversmith, artist in oils, crayons, wax, and miniature. He was a
soldier, legislator, lecturer, taxidermist, and dentist. He married a
succession of wives and had children with all of them. A true artist,
Peale named his children after artists who had blazed the way before
him: Raphael, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titan, and Van Dyke were the names of
some of his sons.
Peale opened his Museum of Natural Science and Art in Philadelphia in
1795. The prehistoric bones, taxidermy animals, and plant life that he
exhibited became so popular that he was forced to find larger quarters
for his museum twice. In 1802, Peale moved his popular museum into
the second floor of Independence Hall. Here he added a silhouette
business which used a physiognotrace patented by his friend John
Hawkins to make
hollow cut silhouettes. The majority of the
silhouettes from the Independence Hall museum are stamped with the
embossed signature “MUSEUM.” Less common is “PEALE'S MUSEUM” stamped
above the form of an eagle (please see the note below about spotting
fake "PEALE'S MUSEUM" silhouettes. The rarest of the three stamped signatures
used by Peale is “PEALE.” We are unsure of the dates in each of the
stamps were used nor of which is his eventual three museums, run by his
sons, used the scarcer two. It is thought that Rembrandt Peale may
have used the "PEALE" stamp at the separate Baltimore museum. Raphaelle Peale also cut silhouettes in Virginia and must have used one
of these stamps.
While living in Maryland, Peale acquired a mixed-race slave couple,
probably as payment for a portrait commision. According to law
which he helped to pass, Peale freed the couple when they turned 28.
Their 11 year old son remained bound to the Peale family , which, of
course, kept the parents also bound to Peale. Peale took the young
slave, Moses Williams, into the family home and treated him almost like
another son. Interestingly, Peale could have emancipated Moses
early, but chose to keep control over him--much like he kept control
over his son's lives throughout their adulthood.
Williams was taught the art of silhouette cutting. Under Peale’s supervision and tutelage. Williams cut
the silhouette that are signed “MUSEUM.” While many people assume that
the silhouettes of statesmen cut during this period were done by Peale
himself, Rembrandt Peale once said that Williams' business was so
extensive that he amassed two barrels full of blockheads "among which
were frequently found, by careful search, the likenesses of many a
valued friend or relative, and sometimes of distinguished personages --
another source of profit to him." Rembrandt Peale, Notes and Queries.
The Physiognotrace (1856), 308. Peale was fiercely defensive of
Williams against any prejudices of museum visitors and credited the physiognotrace’s reputation for correct likeness in part to the
“perfection of Williams’ cutting.”
Peale emancipated Williams in 1802, when he was 27. Earning a
mere 6 to 8 cents per silhouette, Williams eventually bought a two-story house.
He married the Peale family's white cook (who would not let him sit at
the table with her before his emancipation) and together they had a
daughter. He continued working managing the Philadelphia silhouette
cutting business until his retirement. Williams is
remembered as one of the earliest known African-American artists in the
Spotting fake "PEALE'S MUSEUM" silhouettes:
The most faked silhouettes in the world have the impressed signature
"PEALE'S MUSEUM" under a spread eagle. That is because, in the
early 20th century, a couple of unscrupulous antiques dealers named
Collins found the original stamp. They set about making horribly
cut fakes and stamping them with what had been one of the most rare of
stamps from Charles Willson Peale's Museum. The fakes are easy to spot
(although they come up for sale all the time as original pieces).
First, the silhouette cutting is sloppy and the subjects are quite often
George Washington and other great statespersons. Second, the paper
used by Peale's real tracing machine was 3 1/2" x 4 3/4". The size
of Peale's paper could not vary because his tracing machine was set up
to hold a 3 1/2" x 4 3/4" piece of paper and automatically reduce the
size of the profile while it was being traced around the actual person.
The fake silhouettes are on paper that tends to be 6" x 8"....it is
impossible that this size paper was used in Peale's tracing machine.
Last, the impressed signature stamp for the real silhouettes sits right
below the bust line termination....it had to because the paper was not
much bigger than the actual cut profile. The impressed stamp on
the fake Peale's sits well below the bust line termination....in an
apparent effort to even out the extra expanse of blank space created by
such a large piece of paper (even though the figures were cut much
larger than the real Peales). The fake Peale's Museum silhouettes
are very predominant in the market while the real ones are quite
Please view the Peale Museum silhouettes currently
in stock on the Silhouettes page.
||Puffy Sleeve Artist (active 1830-1831)
This is a recognized and highly sought-after American silhouettist whose
work makes me happy and shows the great creativity of American folk
silhouette artist of the 19th century. We don't know who the Puffy
Sleeve Artist was, but he or she left behind a wonderful legacy of
unique naïve silhouettes with hollow cut
heads atop watercolor bodies. The profiles are all three-quarter
length with women always facing left and men always facing right.
The heads of women sit high above their bodies with long necks that give
room to highlight their necklaces and fichus. Hair is added above
the head with India ink or watercolor. The dresses are always
painted, usually blue or black. The women's hair combs are cut
into the hollow cut and sit high above their head. The right hands
of the women rest at waist length and the left hands hold an accessory
such as a book, purse, parasol, or flower. Books often bear the
initials or age of the sitter and a date. Like the women, men have
their hair painted around the hollow-cut head. The left hand is
frequently in the man's pocket or resting at hip length. The right
hands of the men holds a decorative object such as a hat, book, cane or
even a trumpet. Hands of both women and men appear to be gloved.
Many have been found in gilded frames with an inset rope, leading some
to believe that these were the only original frames used by this artist.
I believe that enough have been found in originally sized period frames
that this artist may have used a number of different frames.
Itinerant artists often bought frames from different frame-makers as
they worked their way along their routes. All recorded dated
examples bear the dates of 1830 or 1831. Examples have been found in New
Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. Work by the Puffy Sleeve
Artist is so desirable that unknowledgeable (or unscrupulous) sellers
often mislabel silhouettes in which women wear leg-o-mutton sleeves as
work by this artist. This artist's work is unique and there is
only one other anonymous artist who did work similar to this.
Marna A Loving Likeness American Folk Portraits of the
Nineteenth Century, (Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. (1992) 44-47.
Royal Victoria Gallery -
F. & H.A. Frith (after
Royal Victoria Gallery was managed by three artistic members of the
Frith family. Brothers Frederick (who used the signature "F.") and Henry Albert (known
as "H.A.") touted their talents as “PAPRYOTOMIST[s] to His Late as well as
to her present Most Gracious Majesty, and to whom most of the brilliant
Court of the United Kingdom have sat for Their Likenesses. . .” They
claimed to have cut “many Thousand Likenesses” and to being able to
complete the cutting with their “Talismanic Scissors” in only one
minute. The brothers often advertised that they were joined in their
travels by their father, “Mr. Frith, Senr.” “whose Talents as a Portrait
and Miniature Painter are too well known to need comment.” Both brothers
are known to have cut silhouettes. It is unlikely that Frith, Sr. cut
profiles, but it is assumed that he may have done some of the bronze
work on the more elaborately embellished silhouettes.
The embellishment of the Royal Victoria Gallery silhouettes is of the
highest quality. Unless a signature identifies one of the brothers, it
is impossible to know which brother may be responsible. It is also
generally assumed that the Friths had unidentified assistants who may
have helped with the cutting and/or bronzing. Sue McKenzie notes in her
book, British Silhouette Artists and their Work 1760-1860, that signed
examples tend to show that Fredrick Frith was capable of painting backgrounds
in a more finished style than his brother. Also, the bronzing in some of
F. Frith’s signed examples exhibits more expertly rendered work with
more extreme highlighting than H.A. Frith’s signed work.
One feature common to full-length male figures produced by the
gallery is the stance in which the men are shown standing with their
feet apart, with the far leg bent at the knee. Although full-length
female figures have legs hidden under skirts, the feet apart stance is
commonly seen with the lady’s background foot pointed to the side and
the front foot pointed forward.
(active circa 1825-1835)
Justin Salisbury was a Vermont
resident, who worked primarily inthe Connecticut River Valley.
Unlike most hollow cut silhouettists of the period, it appears that
Salisbury worked freehand, without the aid of machines such as
physiognotrace. We believe this because his work does not exhibit
an incised or penciled line bordering the edge of the profile, as most
mechanically drawn profiles exhibit. Salisbury's work is often
embellished with penciled details, such as the hairstyle embellishments
in this silhouette. The sawtooth border of this young lady's neck
ruff and the wave at the bust termination are characteristic of
Salisbury's work. Salisbury cut his men with hollow cut heads,
uncut collar and coat lapel, then hollow cut shoulder, much the same as
William Chamberlain's cutting. However, whereas Chamberlain and
most similar works of the period colored the lapel with watercolor,
Salisbury used pencil to color the lapel. He drew a very simple
stock with ink. The bust termination of Salisbury's men is a
straight line, slightly angled up toward the back, with a small downward
notch about two-thirds toward the back to depict the arm.
Howe, Florence Thompson, "Justin Salisbury's Silhouettes",
Spinning Wheel, March 1971. 54-55.
Click here for a pdf version of the article.
Sloat, Caroline F., ed., Meet Your Neighbors New England Portraits
Painters & Society 1790-1850, Old Sturbridge Village 1992.
W. Seville (1797-1866) & F.W. Seville
William Seville probably began cutting silhouettes in 1818 or 1819 in
Manchester, England. He and his son, Frederick William, offered a great
variety of work other than silhouettes. It appears that W. Seville began
traveling as an itinerant artist in 1820 as a number of addresses have
been noted on handbills advertising his work. One advertisement notes
his prices as follows:
- One Black Shade for 1s.
- Two Black Shades for 1s. 6d.
- These, ‘bronzed’, 1s. extra.
- Full-length: 5s. Two full-lengths for 6s. 6d.
- Bronzed: 2s. extra.
- Dogs: 3s. 6d.
One shilling for a plain black silhouette was quite cheap even for
the period. Seville must have been quite busy at those prices. He
eventually raised the prices of his dog profiles to 5s.
W. Seville is known as an accomplished cutter, working only with
plain scissors--never the automated contraptions that were the rage in
the early 19th century. The bronze embellishment may have been done by
his son, F.W. Seville, who is known to have been an accomplished painter.
A silhouette that has recently passed through my hands is signed by
the son as the cutter. The silhouette also bears the impressed
stamp "W. SEVILLE, ARTIST." Because of this wonderful find, we now
know that the son worked in his father's studio as both an accomplished
cutter and painter of embellishment!
There is a wonderful blog entry about William Seville and his work at
Photo-Sleuth, September 17, 2009 entry.
The Musée historique de Lausanne in Switzerland has two
silhouettes by Georges-Hyde Seigneux in its collection. The museum
reports that Seigneux was born into a noble family in Lausanne in 1764.
He was a first office Captain in the service of the Electorate of
Bavaria. During the height of the French revolution, Seigneux was a
lawyer and prosecutor for the canton of Vaud. He was a jurist and
historian and published Summary of Revolution in the canton of Vaud in
1798. He married Elizabeth Massé, daughter of Jacques Massé. His
work is cut & paste with watercolor backgrounds. The fine, tiny
conversation silhouette shown at the left is only 7" x 9" but all three
figures are cut with amazing detail and placed within a drawn border
with added watercolor detail for the frills, the caning on the chair
backs, and the finer parts of the spindle. The grey and mauve painted
swags are held in place with three grotesque heads which add a wonderful
touch of humor. An inscribed verse placed within a cut border below the
figures. The source of the verse is as untraced so it may even be
original. “Ne jamais vous quitter est mon bonheur supreme: / Je
cherche a imiter par ce léger emblem / la mitie qui munit par des
chaines de fleurs / Des ma plus tendre enfance au plus digne des coeurs.”
This roughly translates to “ To never leave you is my supreme happiness
/ I am trying to imitate this lightweight emblem / the mitie [I
have not found a translation for this word] which equips by chains of
flowers / Of my childhood the most worthy of hearts.” Seigneux's
work is rare and very fine.
Todd's Patent, Isaac Todd, American Silhouettist
(active at least 1807-1812)
Little is known of the American silhouettist who signed his profiles
with the impressed stamp “Todd’s Patent.” Alice Van Leer Carrick’s research led her to believe he was
the George Todd found in the Baltimore Directory of 1810, and he was known as “George (?) Todd” since Carrick wrote her book in 1928.
Thanks for the research of Sue Anderson, we now know that the
silhouettes bearing the impressed signature "Todd's Patent" were cut by
Isaac Todd. Ms. Anderson's research (which she cheerfully shared
with me) found that I. Todd was advertising his appearance and work with
his Physiognatrace as early as 1804 in Alexandria, VA and Washington.
Todd worked for a while in conjunction with T.P. Jones in New York City
beginning in 1805. In 1807, Isaac Todd advertised in Charleston,
SC that "All profiles will be stamped Todd's Patent." His
Charleston advertisement stated that he cut 4 profiles for 25 cents
"From the liberal encouragement received during nearly four years in New
York, Baltimore, Alexandria, New-Orleans and several small towns..."
It is surprising that an artist who has remained such a mystery left
a wonderful legacy of duplicate hollow-cut silhouettes. The Anthenænum
Special Collections Library in Boston owns the beautiful folio
consisting of 1,758 hollow cut silhouettes in which Todd scrupulously recorded the name of
each sitter. The Anthenænum's folio by Todd includes sitters from
Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Jersey,
New York and Massachusetts. The museum identifies Todd as "Isaac
Todd of Baltimore".
Todd’s unadorned silhouettes were done in several sizes, from a mere
1 5/8” tall to nearly 3”. His style is distinctive and always bears the
impressed stamp “Todd’s Patent.” His ladies are beautifully cut and
thoughtfully rendered. But Todd’s excellence in cutting is found in his
rendering of men (which are now very rarely found) who bore the most
elaborate of costumes, including ruffled shirts, hairstyles à la Titus,
and tall beaver hats. However, Todd’s silhouettes are so rare that any
found are always quickly snapped up.
Electra Case & Husband John Black
Back of the John Black Silhouette
|Orson C. Warner
(b. 1800 & active in New England circa late 1820s)
Warner has been a mystery silhouettist until very recently. He
does not show up in any of the silhouette reference books.
However, thanks to the author of the very interesting blog
Photo-Sleuth we know
that Orson C. Warner was born in 1800 in Chester, Connecticut. His
parents were David Warner and Mary Cone Warner, both life-long residents
of Connecticut. Orson Warner's family first immigrated from
England to America both on the Mayflower (Mary Chilton) and on
the later ship Fortune (John Winslow) which came to America in
1621. Other than this very interesting genealogy, we know little
else about Orson Warner except he wrote a self-published autobiography.
I am currently waiting for a copy of this book to arrive.....I'll add
any appropriate information once I have a chance to examine the book.
We do know that Warner cut hollow cut silhouettes with uncut collars
for both men and women (see the silhouettes of Electra Case and John
Black). He also favored a bust termination consisting of two
convex curves with a sharp point in the center (compare the silhouette
of John Black with those of the Head twins) although this was not the
only bust termination he used (see silhouette of Col. John Head).
We also know that he sometimes cut women with completely painted bodies
(see silhouette of Anna Brown Head). Warner identified his sitters
and signed his work with rather sloppy writing on the wood backing of
Warner's silhouettes are classic examples of American folk
Anna Brown Head, Col. John Head & twins
Natt and William Head
|Mary Pillsbury Weston (often listed as Mrs. Valentine
Mary B. Pillsbury was born in Hebron, New Hampshire in 1817. Her
father Stephen Pillsbury was a Baptist minister and a fifth generation
American. His family members immigrated from England sometime before
1645 when the first American member, Moses Pillsbury, was born in
Dorchester, Massachusetts. Mary was the sixth of eight children born to
Stephen and his wife Lavina Hobart.
Mary acquired a great love for art at an early age. When she gave an
account of her life for the 1859 book Women Artists All Ages and
Countries by Mrs. E.F. Ellet, Mary recollected that she first attempted
to draw the face of a beautiful woman who caught her eye when she was
merely seven years old. After that, young Mary spent her free time
sketching and reading books about artists. She was especially fond of
prevailing upon a younger sister to sit for her as she practiced
sketching. Once Mary had mastered a sketch of her sister, she turned her
drawing talents towards neighboring Indians who often visited Hebron.
One day during Mary’s childhood, Hebron was visited by an itinerant
silhouettist whom Mary watched while at work. From that day forward,
Mary practiced cutting silhouettes from leaves and paper until she had
mastered the art.
Although Mary wanted to spend all her time with her artwork, her
mother was afraid the study of painting would interfere with more
important study and refused to allow young Mary to take art lessons.
Despite her mother’s objections, Mary continued to practice painting.
She used beet-juice, and the extract of bean-leaves to prepare paints
for herself until a family member finally gifted a box of paints to her.
Mary continued to paint and read biographies of artists and as many
books about classical times and faraway places as she could find in her
father’s library to the exclusion of playing with other children her
age. Her longing to become a famous artist filled her otherwise lonely
When Mary was fourteen, she ran away from home, walking thirty miles
in a day with the intent to reach Concord where she hoped to earn a
small living through housekeeping or laundry while she worked to
establish herself as an artist. Late at night, the tired young girl
finally stopped at a small house in the country where she asked to stay
long enough to rest. Once Mary had told her story, the home owners asked
her to stay the night. After the exhausted young girl had fallen asleep,
Mary’s host left for Hebron to alert her family. The next morning, Mary
awakened to find her uncle waiting to take her home. Mary’s family
welcomed her home, never said a word about her disobedience and offered
a bit more understanding about her wish to spend her time practicing her
art instead of doing chores. Mary never quit dreaming about life as a
At the age of nineteen, Mary finally set out to become a professional
artist. With twelve dollars and a small basket of clothes, Mary left for
New York. She spent a week in New York, staying with a lady whom she did
not know, but who let her stay because she had previously heard about
the strange young lady in Hebron who wanted to be a painter. After a
week in New York, Mary took a suggestion from her hostess (and a letter
of introduction) and set out for Hartford, Connecticut. There she was
received by Rev. Henry Jackson who allowed the young artist to stay in
his home. There she set out preparing canvases and grinding paints in
preparation for her new profession. Soon after, Rev. Jackson received
visitors from Willington. Mary’s paintings pleased the visitors so much,
they took her home with them to paint family portraits. Nineteen year
old Mary Pillsbury was now a professional artist. In Willington, Mary
painted the portraits of her benefactors as well as thirty other people.
Homes were opened to her all over the city. Among those she painted in
Willington were members of the Jonathan Weston family.
Mary returned to Hartford and spent much of time staying with the
Weston family who had a daughter of Mary’s age with whom she became fast
friends. While Mary was staying with the Westons, Jonathan Weston’s
brother, Mr. Valentine Weston, paid a visit and was so enthralled with
Mary’s paintings that he urged her to visit New York to study art. Mary
became intent upon raising enough money for a year’s study in New York.
Soon however, her savings were unnecessary as an invitation came from
Valentine Weston’s daughter, Sarah, for Mary to come to New York and
stay with the Valentine Westons while she studied art. Mary took
advantage of the offer, moved in with the Westons, studied her art, and,
three months after the move, became the second Mrs. Valentine Wightman
She bore at least two children: a daughter named Valentine Lavina
Weston who was born in September 1843. I have been unable to find the
name or birthdate of the second child but I have found evidence that one
of Mary’s children was a daughter who went by the name of Eva. Whether
“Eva” was short for Lavina I can not tell, but after Mary’s husband died
in 1863, Mary and Eva lived with relatives in New Hampshire before
moving to Lawrence, Kansas in 1874. There Mary lived until her death in
Mary’s paintings were exhibited at the National Academy in 1842. In
1893, she created a painting especially for the 1893 World’s Columbian
Exposition in Chicago which she called “The Spirit of Kansas.” The
painting depicts a classical figure of a woman astride a white horse.
The woman holds a dove representing peace. Below the horse’s feet is a
snake representing tyranny being stamped out. Receding storm clouds
above the woman’s head represent her hope that the violent
Indian/settler conflicts upon which Kansas was built were disappearing.
This great painting currently resides in the collection of the Kansas
Museum of History.
Mary Pillsbury Weston was an accomplished portrait artist,
silhouettist, and painter of classically-based paintings and religious
paintings. She depicted her figures with great movement and with a
special eye towards grace of the human form. Her silhouettes are rarely
found and represent some of the most complicated of the already rare
American conversation pieces. She cut whole families, embellished them
with Chinese white and pale blue and laid them upon watercolor
backgrounds of a much more complicated nature than those done by
Edouart, Metford, or even William Henry Brown. Unlike other artists of
the day, she used color in her backgrounds such as subtle shades of
green and brown. Her silhouettes are very rare.
Mary’s cousin John and second cousin Charles Pillsbury founded the
Pillsbury flour milling dynasty.
Henry Williams (1787-1830)
Bostonian Henry Williams cut profiles with added watercolor
embellishment for hair and collar adornments around the edge of his
machine-drawn, hollow cut silhouettes. According to his
advertisements, he also painted miniatures and portraits on ivory and
portraits in oil and pastel (or "crayons" as pastel was called in the
18th and 19th centuries). His hollow cut silhouettes were signed
with an impressed signature in capital letters "WILLIAMS". His
silhouettes are confidently cut with lovely extras such as small, narrow
cuts for cravat ties and forelock hair. His added adornment
finishes his hollow cut silhouettes with great flourish. One of
his early advertisements described his work as follows:
or no pay
Williams will take correct Profile Likenesses with his new machine;
and which takes 16 different sizes down to a quarter of an inch; cut
on beautiful wove paper--may have two or four cut for 25 cts. --
elegantly framed with enameled glasses from 75 cts. to 1 dol., 1.50
and 2 dols.
Miniatures and Portraits executed upon Ivory; Portraits in Oil and
Crayons; profiles painted upon glass; likewise on Ivory -- from 3 to
4 dols. Also, Glass Miniature Settings, for Sale, from 10 to
16 and 20 dols.
Profile Frames for sale, oval, round, square or circular, of various
sizes; by the dozen, gross or single, cheaper than can be purchased
Constant attention from 7 o'clock in the morning, until 9 in the
This advertisements was found in an 1806 newspaper, when he would
have been nineteen years old. No signed examples of Williams'
painted profiles on ivory or glass are known. His hollow cut work
is very scarcely found and very desirable.
Williams is considered a versatile artist doing work in pastel,
silhouette, wax portraits, oil portraits, miniature portraits and
engravings. He was listed as an anatomist in the Boston directories of
the 1820s. He published Elements of Drawing in 1814. The book includes
an essay and twenty-six engraved copper-plate portraits and other
figures. Williams was most active in miniature painting from 1808-1826.
At the end of 1806, Williams was in partnership with William M.S. Doyle
in Boston. Many works between the years 1810 and 1820 are signed by both
Williams & Doyle.
Fellow artist William Dunlap described Williams as follows: “He was a
small, short, self-sufficient man; very dirty, and very forward and
patronizing in his manner.” Williams silhouettes are always hollow cut
and have India Ink embellishments around the edges. They are often
signed with an impressed stamp “WILLIAMS”. His portrait miniatures
display great detail and the sitters tend to have large, round eyes with
heavy top and bottom eyelids. Mouths show slight pouchiness. The
tips of noses are strongly highlighted. Most works show strong value
contrasts. The backgrounds are of a mottled neutral color with light to
heavy shadowing to indicate light coming in from the sitter’s back. This
allows the pale ivory surface to often show through the light hatching
on one side of the sitter.
Barratt, Carrie Rebora and Zabar, Lori, American Portrait
Miniatures in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Metropolitan
Museum of Art, New York, Yale University Press, New Haven and London.
Johnson, Dale T., American Portrait Miniatures in the Manny
Collection. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York,
Distributed by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York. 1990.
Unfortunately, there is an extremely caustic
blogger out there who has stolen my photos of the double silhouette that
you see to the left and is claiming that the silhouette is fake.
His sole reason for these blog posts is to bash me and promote himself.
Please know that this horrible man has never held this double silhouette
in his hands and has never seen anything but the medium resolution
photos that you see here. I assure you that there is no evidence
that all Williams stamps are not 19th century as they have been
identified by the scholarly community for years or that the silhouette
shown was not done by Henry Williams. One must always consider the
source of such bad information and the evidence presented for unfounded
claims such as this. I can also assure you that I know the
difference between 19th and 20th century silhouettes and provide the
best, most current information you can find about antique silhouettes.
I am so sorry that I have to make such an announcement at all!
James Hosley Whitcomb (1806-1849)
Holsey Whitcomb was born to Oliver and Hannah (née
Hosley) Whitcomb in Hancock, New Hampshire. The Whitcomb
family first immigrated from England to Massachusetts sometime before
1632. When James was two or three years old, he became ill with
scarlet fever which left him permanently deaf. In 1822, he was
admitted to the American Asylum, which was founded in 1817 in Hartford,
Connecticut as the nation's first institution for the education of
deaf-mutes. James was one of nine deaf children, chosen from forty
applicants who received a scholarship from New Hampshire's legislative
appropriation of $1000 "for the purpose of educating the deaf and dumb
children belonging to this State at the Asylum in Hartford,
Connecticut." At school, James learned both written English and a
sign language that was to become the basis of today's American Sign
Language. He was also introduced to abstract philosophical and
religious ideas to which the deaf child had no previous comprehension.
The students spent three or four hours each day training for a specific
occupation. James learned the trade of shoemaking. There are
no specific records showing that the school taught the arts, but the
school's principal, Rev. Thomas H. Gallaudet, seems to have included the
fine arts among his goals for deaf-mutes. Several
graduates of the school are known to have become artists, including
Augustus Fuller (portrait painter, admitted to the Asylum in 1824), and
William Niblo, Jr. (exhibited paintings at the American and National
Academies, admitted to the Asylum in 1826). James graduated from
the Asylum in 1827 and by 1830 he was producing both cut & paste and
hollow cut silhouettes.
James H. Whitcomb probably spent a number of years as an itinerant
artist. Although several silhouettes by Whitcomb of New York
residents have been found as well as New Hampshire residents, nothing is
known about Whitcomb's exact locations until 1839 when he married Sarah
Ann Enos, who had graduated from a New York institution for deaf-mutes.
By 1841, the Whitcombs lived in Afton, New York, where Whitcomb worked
as a shoemaker. James died suddenly at the age of 42 in 1849.
He had fathered three sons by the time of his early death. It is
unknown whether he continued his silhouette cutting during the last
decade of his life.
Only one cut & paste silhouette by Whitcomb is know. The
silhouette is a spectacular representation of President Andrew Jackson
on horseback. Painted banners surround the president and stylized
stars are painted in the corners. It is signed "Cut with
scissors and painted by J.H. Whitcomb in 1830." This
silhouette resides in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. It is
Whitcomb's hollow cut silhouettes that rarely show up on the market and
have such a stylized bust-line termination as to be instantly
recognizable. Only two are known to be signed, including a
portrait of W.M. Matthews, signed "J.H. Whitcomb a cutter of this".
Also know is a self-portrait signed "Aged 24, 1831. James H.
Whitcomb cutter of himself." All other of Whitcomb's work is
attributed based on his exaggerated fully curved bust line terminations
with deep indentations delineating the outline of the lower edge and
back of the sitter's coat so that the bust termination looks like an
apostrophe. The men all have hollow cut heads and the shoulder
beneath the jacket lapel is also hollow cut. The coat lapels,
shirt front and collar are all left uncut, then richly detailed with ink
and watercolor. Hair is added to the simple cutting of the head
with the addition of ink or watercolor. The women have the same
apostrophe bust curve. Again, heads and shoulders are hollow cut
and the woman's collar is left uncut. Details of collars are
delightfully painted with watercolor and ink. Bonnets or
hairstyles are softened with pencil or watercolor. The depth of
the apostrophe bust curves vary from silhouette to silhouette showing
that Whitcomb's formula was not hard and fast. He took the time to
make each silhouette unique.
J.H. Whitcomb silhouettes are quite rarely found on the market and
Garvin, Donna-Bell, "James Hosley Whitcomb: New
Hampshire Silhouettist", Historical New Hampshire, Spring/Summer
Jackson, Mrs. E. Nevill, Silhouettes a History and
Dictionary of Artists. Dover Publications, Inc. New York 1987
(first published in 1938 by Methuen & Co. under title Silhouette:
Notes and Ditionary). 152 & Plate 60, illustrating signed
silhouette of W. M. Matthews by Whitcomb).
Rifken, Blume J., Silhouettes in America, 1790-1840.
Paradigm Press, Inc., Burlington, VT. 1987. 74-75 (showing
two unattributed Whitcomb silhouettes of New York residents.
Unfinished Duplicate of silhouette to
George White (1810-1880)
George White was
born in Derbyshire village of Winster to James White and Elizabeth
Hodgkinson. In 1835 he married Ann Melbourne. One year later White
opened a profile cutting studio in Manchester offering to “cut
likenesses of ladies, gentlemen, and children; dogs, horse, &c”.
This studio remained open for seven months then White moved his family
to Preston, where he offered likenesses in full length, half length or
busts, plain or finished in shade or bronzed. He advertised that he
could cut “STRIKING LIKENESSES, cut with scissors in three minutes.”
Little is known about White’s professional career between 1836 and 1846.
We do know that he worked as an itinerant artist at least through the
last half of the 1830s. Although we do not know where he cut them, we
have silhouettes bearing the White’s Gallery stenciled trade label which
date circa 1840 – 1845. Therefore, we know that White was still cutting
silhouettes as part of his profession during that period. However,
neither advertisements nor directory listings have been discovered that
indicate what type of art White was creating between 1839 and 1849. In
1849 in tree in Gillian Jones’ directory, Lancashire Professional
Photographers, White is listed as a photographer.
Recent discoveries show that George White was indeed still cutting
profile likenesses of both humans and animals circa 1840-1845 and
embellishing them not only with gilt bronzing but also splashes of
color. Two recently discovered full length silhouettes backed by the
White’s Gallery stamp depict people and a dog standing at waters edge
with water indicated by a splash of Prussian blue watercolor behind the
Payne, Brent, "Striking
Likenesses: George White (1810-1880), from Silhouettist to Photographer",
blog, June 22, 2011.
McKinley, Cynthia, "George
White - silhouette artist and photographer",
on the Green, News, Views & Comments, 2013.
Please view the George White silhouette currently
in stock on the Silhouettes page.