Antique American Hollow Cut Silhouette, Possibly by William Chamberlain
  • This is a very interesting American folk silhouette which is possibly done by William Chamberlain.  Chamberlain never signed his silhouettes that we know of.  The only silhouettes that we can be absolutely certain are by Chamberlain are in his duplicate book which was donated to the American Antiquarian Society ("AAS") by his grand-daughter, Mrs. Frederick McClure.  Everyone of those silhouettes have the same bust termination line which is comprised of a convex curve at the front of the bust-line, coming up at a notch, then a concave curve to the back.  This silhouette exhibits that bust termination.   Chamberlain is known for cutting men with a hollow cut head and shoulder but the shirt front uncut with painted detail.  All of the women in Chamberlain's duplicate book were fully hollow cut with ruffed neck collars.  All women from Chamberlain's duplicate book have either cut hair combs or bonnets. 

    This silhouette of a young woman differs from those fully-cut women's profiles because her head and shoulder are hollow cut but the ruffed neck collar is uncut with painted detail.  A close inspection of this silhouette shows that the artist originally planned to fully cut the profile, making a cut from the back of the neck, through the painted collar, ending just slightly behind the shoulder.  It looks like he started to cut his normal profile then changed his mind to try something different.  Since leaving part of a man's profile cut and part uncut, Chamberlain could certainly have decided to cut a woman's profile in a like manner.  The silhouette is certainly of the high quality cutting we expect from Chamberlain with lovely facial features.  The lovely young lady has a cut hair comb, in keeping with Chamberlain's work.  The painted detail includes a delightful addition of a smaller hair comb between the hair curls in front of the large, cut comb and the hair on over her forehead.  The eyelash is painted, not cut.  I found several profiles from the Chamberlain duplicate book with painted eyelashes.

    The possibility that this is a Chamberlain of a different form is very exciting in the silhouette world.  The profile is lovely, which makes it a great folk silhouette for any collection.  There is overall toning to the paper, a light moisture stain between 11 and 1 o'clock that you can see in the images.  The paper on the left side has a slight ripple to it, also visible in the images.  Directly in front of the lady's chin is a scratch in the glass--it is not a tear or mark on the paper.  The lovely lady resides in her probably original, stamped brass over wood frame with spandrel corners.  Framed size is 5 1/4" x 4 3/8".  The wood backboard has an old jelly jar label with the inscription "Miss Mary / C. Eno / Simsbury / Conn".  I've done some genealogical research which shows several women from Connecticut named Mary Eno from the relevant time period.  However, the only Mary C. Eno I could find was not born until 1856, several decades too late for this circa 1820 silhouette.  A Mary Eno was born in 1798 in Simsbury (surprisingly one of three siblings born to John Sabin and Mary Eno--that must have been scandalous!).  Since this lady appears to be in her early 20s, this is a correct time period.  There was another Mary Eno born in Windsor, Connecticut in 1794.  Since it is apparent that the identification label was placed onto the backboard much later than the 1820 date of the silhouette, which has no other identifying marks, I don't have too much faith in the inscription correctly identifying the sitter.  I will provide my research to the new owner.  This is a very exciting early 19th century American folk silhouette.

    (#5087)    Sold

    Please see the Silhouettist Bios page for more information about William Chamberlain.