Conversation Composition of Silhouettes from Edouart’s Animaux
  • If you follow our website or have seen any of Peggy’s talks, you probably know that Augustin Edouart was meticulous about his silhouette art. He prided himself (and 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.

    A new and exciting discovery surfaced a few years ago from a Parisian bookseller: Edouart’s personal folio of “Scraps” in a book labeled “Animaux”. This is the most exciting Edouart discovery in a century! Mrs. Jackson discovered the duplicate folios in the first decade of the 20th century in Guernsey where Edouart left them. However, it appears that Edouart took this book with him to Calais, France. 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. We have been so lucky to acquire more than 200 figures removed from this book. We have sold and will continue to sell these figures, always lightly mounted on acid-free materials, and framed in period maple frames as Edouart would have insisted. The reverse of the mountings are always stamped with a specially made stamp for items from this book and also with Peggy’s collection stamp. The reason for our insistence on mounting and stamping is because these figures are so unusual (although distinctly from Edouart’s hand) that we want to help future generations authenticate them because they can be traced back to Peggy.

    Sometimes we enjoy putting together a humorous composition of the Animaux figures, in line with Edouart’s good sense of humor. Here we have the household piano on which the foolish homeowners have placed their cockatoo’s perch. The owners think the cockatoo is out of reach of their dogs. But, alas, their long-haired pup has taken a flying leap on a nearby chair that is falling, angled to let the pup jump up on the piano. The flustered bird is taking flight and the other family dogs are waiting patiently for the bird to join them on the floor. …..cute story but if you have ever owned a parrot, you know that the parrot is the dominant one between those 4 pets and would likely be antagonizing the dogs! The period maple frame measures 19 3/8" x 15 7/8" with sight size of 13 5/8" x 10". As you can see in the photo, one of the piano legs is bent. The cockatoo has a small hole which we have backed with a small piece of Edouart’s own blackened paper so it can’t be seen without very close inspection. The silhouettes from Edouart’s Animaux were cut between 1826 and at least 1845.

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    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.