Words by:
William Gregory MRICS
Featured in:
May 2018

William Gregory MRICS of Golding Young & Mawer brings you news from the sales room.
Silhouettes became popular in the early nineteenth century as an alternative to the painted portrait miniature or more formal oil on canvas.

The silhouettes are generally set in profile to emphasise the outline proportions and features of the sitter or scene. The result is a very effective form of portraiture; reducing the detail to the outline can define likeness and character. They are also an excellent source for recording the changing styles and fashions of earlier generations.

The silhouette is produced by either cutting card or by drawing an outline and painting in, sometimes on the reverse of a sheet of glass. The contrast in light and shade, along with the emphasis on details makes them highly decorative.

Production of silhouettes, especially cut card, was cheaper than other methods and this added to their popularity. Individual artists did become famous for their production but in the main it was widespread amongst professional and amateur artists.

The production method makes the individual silhouette fragile but if properly framed early nineteenth-century examples remain in good condition today.

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