Silhouettes

Tiny Silhouette of Man Smoking a Pipe
  • This intriguing little silhouette is cut out and pasted so well that you have to run your finger across the edge of the figure to know that it is not a fully painted profile. The gentleman is very well depicted with his wavy grey hair and smoking his fabulous pipe! We thought it a water pipe, but a bit of research shows that this style of pipe was made in Germany and surrounding areas. The style is sometimes called a hunter’s pipe. The extra cavity on the lower part of the stem seems to be a chamber—perhaps for cooling with water—this is supposition as we haven’t found any good explanation for the extra cavity or why the blue smoke seems to come out of the bottom of the stem and then go back into the stem—we are thinking the chamber was glass and the artist was depicting the smoke as it went through the water chamber. It’s all fascinating.

    The silhouette is signed very low on the card, “W Kohrssen fecit. Gottingen.” We know this is an artist signature, not the sitter, because of the use of fecit which translates to “made it”. Gottingen is a town in Germany that has long been known for its university. Research for the artist found only one artist, Georg Wilhelm Gottfried Kohrssen, and one other piece signed by him on a portrait miniature. The signature looks similar but does not use the initial “W” nor any other initial or name and the portrait artist used “pinxt” (meaning “painted it”) instead of fecit. All this mystery makes us excited about this silhouette! It is housed in a period gilt frame measuring 4 ¼” x 5 ½”. Sight size is 2” x 3 ½”. Unfortunately, the signature is written so low on the card that you can’t read it while it hangs on the wall—you can see that it is there, but you can’t see it. Circa 1890.

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