If you follow my website or have seen any of my talks, you probably know that Augustin Edouart was meticulous about his silhouette art. He prided himself (an rightfully so) for cutting the most lifelike of figures. He kept duplicates of each of his silhouettes in folios. In 1849, Edouart left America on a ship named Oneida bound for the British Isles. He took all his possessions with him. Oneida sank in the Guernsey Bay. Luckily, everyone survived but Edouart’s precious silhouettes, the work of a lifetime, sank to the bottom of the bay. A few were rescued and, when Edouart left Guernsey for Calais, France where he would live the rest of his life, he left all the recovered duplicate folios with the family who cared for him in Guernsey. The duplicates that Edouart left with the Lukis family eventually made their way to Mrs. F. Nevil Jackson who cataloged them and restored them from their waterlogged condition. Mrs. Jackson sold the duplicates in groups and singles and they come onto the market with enough regularity to keep the many collectors of Edouart happy.
That, in a nutshell, is the story of the duplicates. However, a new and exciting discovery recently surfaced from a Parisian bookseller: Edouart’s personal folio of “Scraps” in a book labeled “Animaux”. This is the most Edouart exciting discovery in a century! Mrs. Jackson discovered the duplicate folios in the first decade of the 20th century. It appears that Edouart took this book with him to Calais. It was filled with figures of dogs, horses, toys, mythical characters, floral sprays, and on and on. It looks like Edouart used the book to keep figures that he cut to practice unusual forms that he might have been commissioned to add to conversation silhouettes as well as figures that he cut for his own amusement. The book was a treasure trove of incredible pieces. I have been so lucky to acquire more than 200 figures removed from this book. In the coming months (perhaps years) I will be offering these mind-boggling silhouettes for sale. They will always be lightly mounted on acid-free materials and framed in period frames. The reverse of the mountings will always be stamped with a specially made stamp for items from this book and also with my collection stamp. The reason for my insistence on mounting and stamping is because these figures are so unusual (although distinctly from Edouart’s hand) that I want to help future generations authenticate them because they can be traced back to me.
I never even imagined that Edouart might have cut floral silhouettes! Yet, this listing shows his carefully depicted detail to something so simple as a Johnny Jump-up plant. It includes open, flat-faced viola flowers, the center stalk of the plant with its leaves of several shapes, a bud and a seed pod. This is a beautiful, detailed study of a modest plant that gives joy around the world. Look closely—you can almost see the purple and yellow flowers!
This silhouette is in really wonderful condition with very few small scrapes to the black paint at some edges of leaves and stems and some very faint, small white stains from the moisture that found it at the bottom of the bay. The figure is 4 ½” x 3 ¼”. The silhouette is lightly mounted with a few drops of water-based, acid-free glue onto acid-free cream-colored paper which is then glued onto acid-free ragboard (acid free glue, of course). I’ve housed it in a bird’s eye maple veneer frame with a canted profile and a gilt liner. The maple is beautifully colored—a color that really highlights the figuring of the wood. Framed size is 10 5/8” x 7 5/8” with a sight size of 7” x 4 ¾”. Mid-19th century and a real rarity!
Edouart, Augustin, A Treatise on Silhouette Likenesses, Longman & Co., Paternoster-Row; and J. Bolster, Patrick-Street, Cork, 1835.
Jackson, Mrs. E. Nevill, Silhouettes A History and Dictionary of Artists, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1981 (published as an unabridged republication of Jackson’s Silhouette: Notes and Dictionary, Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1938), at 98-99.
Please see the Silhouettist Bios page for more information about Edouart.