This American-cut silhouette by the great master silhouettist, Augustin Edouart, shows the great character of this portly Quaker gentleman! Joseph Warner posed for his silhouette in Philadelphia on January 12, 1843. This is the original, commissioned silhouette, signed in the lower right corner, Augn. Edouart, fecit. 1843 / Philadelphia. The duplicate of Joseph Warner’s silhouette was found in the Quaker album at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College and was published in August Edouart A Quaker Album by Helen and Nel Laughon.
Joseph Warner’s history was a bit difficult to find, granted that the Quaker’s have always been so good in keeping records about all members. By backdoor, I discovered that Lydia Warner, who Edouart placed next to Joseph Warner in the duplicate book and mistakenly noted was “(wife of Joseph Warner)” was actually his sister in-law. By researching Lydia and her husband, Joseph’s brother Benjamin, I discovered that Joseph and his brother were children of John Warner (born in Switzerland) and Sarah Christy (birthplace unknown). I have been unable to find Joseph’s birthdate or anything else about him until his brother, Benjamin, died at the young age of 34. Our sitter, Joseph attended a Philadelphia Monthly Meeting at which it was noted that “Benjamin Warner, J 24 35years a member deceased at Richmond Virginia _____ to information received from Joseph Warner Brother of the deceased.” After Benjamin’s death, according to a summary of the Fisher Warner papers at Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Joseph “assumed paternal responsibilities” for the four children of Lydia Fisher Warner and her late husband Benjamin Warner. Although I cannot find any documentation to indicate that Lydia and Benjamin ever married, it is likely that they were seen together and with the children so that an infrequent visitor to Philadelphia such as Edouart would mistake them as a married couple. The index for the Warner Family Papers shows that the Library Collection includes correspondence between Joseph and members of Benjamin’s family and Joseph’s receipt book. Indeed, this silhouette gives someone a wonderful research project about a member of a prominent Philadelphia Quaker family with a known location to look at original documents. Lydia Fisher was born into an important and wealthy Philadelphia Quaker family as a daughter of Miers Fisher. The Library’s summary states that
The Fisher Family Papers provide a cogent and comprehensive view of a prominent Quaker family in Philadelphia during a period of military crisis, national upheaval, and government renewal. Miers Fisher is the central figure in the family papers; included is correspondence among Miers and his wife and children, as well as letters from his brothers, business partners, and his many friends and acquaintances. While many letters offer important and detailed insights about politics and public affairs, the majority of the Fisher Family Papers document the everyday personal and business occurrences of a wealthy family.1
The Miers Family Papers show that during the Revolutionary War, Quakers were often discriminated against because their neutral position on war forced them to refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the burgeoning American government. Lydia’s father and her uncles were arrested and exiled to Winchester, Virginia where they were detained for almost nine months. Certainly, these papers, including those directly related to our sitter, Joseph, would give great insight into life during the difficult early years of the New Republic.
So, here we have this wonderful silhouette that gives us a glimpse at the character of Joseph. He is a portly man, wearing a brimmed hat which is set slightly back and shows the backward curvature of the rim. His waistcoat is buttoned tightly across his ample belly. His stock is simply tied in a bow at his white shirt collar. His arms are held behind his back and Edouart lovingly depicts the open hand in the manner that he cut hands so well. Joseph’s shoes are topped with bows at the laces and we see that he wears a morning coat (with tails).
The silhouette is mounted and framed with a receipt written in period ink by Joseph Warner. The receipt says, Philda. 4 M. 5?1828 Recd. Of Mr. L. Warder Forty dollars and 37 cents for amt. red. by him from the Life Insurance Co. on acct. of Susan Namarrow [?] due. $40.37 Joseph Warner Esq.
The left edge of original silhouette backing paper is glued to a paper of the same size (appr. 4” x 10”) to the right edge of the period paper on which a receipt of Joseph Warner has been laid. Both of these papers have been glued onto a thick period card and here is some wrinkling of the papers where they have been glued to the card. Onto the back of this backing card is part of a fashion magazine illustration that is titled, "LES MODES PARISIENNES PETERSON'S MAGAZINE / MAY 1867" "Engraved & Printed by _____Brothers".
The silhouette figure, itself, is in excellent condition and includes the light grease pencil embellishment that Edouart began using around 1843. The silhouette and receipt are framed in a period maple frame that measures 10 ¾” x 12 ¼”. Sight size is 8” x 9 ½”. The “3” in Edouart’s dating has been overwritten, likely by the artist, as it appears that his first attempt at the date left the last numeral as part “3” and part “2”. The frame rabbet covers most of the inscription “Philadelphia”.
The silhouette will arrive to the buyer with a signed copy of the Laughons’ book. The autograph includes the date 1988 and a note to the collector for “Happy silhouetting”. Also included is a 2003 letter from the Laughons to the collectors thanking them for the wonderful visit and “the treat of dinner at Red Lobster.” This is a really spectacular historical American silhouette!
1 Summary of Fisher Warner papers at Historical Society of Pennsylvania, http://www2.hsp.org/collections/manuscripts/f/fisher2094.htm, gathered March 19, 2016.
Provenance: ex-Collection of Dr. Lee & Pat Smith, Dallas, Texas
References: Laughon, Helen & Nel, August Edouart A Quaker Album, American and English Duplicate Silhouettes 1827-1845, Cheswick Press, Richmond, VA, 1982, plate labeled p. 173 (illustrating the duplicate of this silhouette).
Summary of Fisher Warner papers at Historical Society of Pennsylvania, http://www2.hsp.org/collections/manuscripts/f/fisher2094.htm, gathered March 19, 2016.
Please see the Silhouettist Bios page for more information about Augustin Edouart.