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, 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.Just as Edouart cut many of these figures for his own amusement, I will group some of them into conversation pieces for our amusement. After all, what fun would it be to frame all of these wonderful pieces without adding a little whimsy? So, here the family cockatoo has been chased to the top of the spinet by the family’s little dogs. The cockatoo has just landed with his wings just folding back against his body and his crest up and showing his size so as to warn the dogs off. If you have lived with any type of parrot you know that the dogs must have sneaked up and startled him to make him fly away because parrots are extremely dominant creatures. When I lived with a parrot he ruled my two dogs and my cat. Parrots raise their wings away from their body to look bigger when angry or scared and cockatoos raise their crests to appear even larger. These dogs are delighting in getting the bird off the ground (which is where my parrot stayed when he came down off his cage or perch). The little terrier on the left looks to be a Norwich or Cairn Terrier. I think the long-haired little pooch on the right may be a Papillon but I’d love to hear your thoughts. Whatever their breeds or mixes, they surely look like they are having fun! Edouart did his expected wonderful job depicting both of these dogs with the terrier showing its stiff, wiry hair, brow off the forehead, short perky ears and even the tag on its color. The tail is erect but leaning back as the pup leans into a jump. That tail is working on balance! The other dog has long silky hair (can’t you just feel how soft and silky it is?). Its ears have flown back as the pup ran to the spinet and prepares to jump. The tail has moved up from its relaxed position across the back to give the pup more balance as he jumps after the cockatoo. I can hear the commotion as the dogs bound up and down trying to get to the bird and the cockatoo squawks its scolding! The condition of the terrier is marvelous. Condition of the Papillon is great but for a couple of light scratches to the black. The cockatoo is in great condition but for a few scratches on the bottom edges of his feet. The spinet is in good condition with some scratches to the top of the music stand above the sheet music, on the leg to the left of the figure, and along the pedal rod. The right foot has a bit of paper loss but is still holding onto the leg. These apologies are all very minor. Measurements of the figures are: terrier 2 ½” long x 1 ½” tall, Papillon 2 ½” long x 1 ¾” tall, cockatoo 2” wide x 2 ¼” tall, spinet 2 ½ wide x 5” tall including the music stand. It is all in a period bird’s eye maple frame with a stepped gilt liner and a brass hanging loop. Framed size is 11 1/8” x 12 ¾” with a sight size of 7 ¼” x 8 ¾”. I promise you will never see another one like this! Mid-19th century (1826-1845).
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.