A Lovely Mystery Silhouette of Child or Childlike Woman
  • I am a bit flummoxed about this gorgeous little silhouette. Is she painted or cut & paste? She looks like a cut-out and pasted down profile, including the somewhat angular outline at the back of her head and the very slight, hard to see lighter color halo around the figure. The halo usually forms because of the paper’s reaction to glue behind a cut & paste silhouette and the slight angular outline would seem to be a hasty cut that wasn’t quite as smooth as it might be. But, Peggy took her out of the frame and ran a finger from the background over the figure and the only difference to the feel is what we would expect from paint on top of the paper. There is no feel of two different levels (the background paper being slightly lower than the pasted on paper). That indicates that it is painted. But, examining under high magnification does not show anywhere that the paint absorbed into the paper and slightly shows past the outline. Now we are back to cut. The reverse of the card shows some ghosting which could either be from the paint (if painted) or the glue (if cut). We are going with the idea that it is cut & paste but we do not guarantee that. But, really, who cares?! She is so lovely with that beautiful gilt embellishment. The painting is very portrait-like, with the light coming from the viewer’s left and mancheron trim at the upper part of her sleeve, her sash belt, the ornamentation that runs down the front of her bodice. Ears are one of the hardest parts of the face for a portrait artist to paint but this ear is beautifully portrait-like. And that beaded necklace is also painted with such dimension it is stunning.

    The other mystery is how old is the sitter? Her head and face looks like a very young child, yet her clothes are that of a fashionable adult woman of the 1830s. We are going with the idea that the sitter is quite young and the clothing is a fantasy. Clothing in portraits was often fantastical—which made it easier for portrait painters to use a formula for their paintings so that they could really concentrate on the faces of their sitters.

    Whatever theory you chose, this silhouette is gorgeous and we are offering it so reasonably, you need to snap it up so we can get it to you with time to stuff it in a stocking! The papier mâché frame is about 4” x 4 ¾” and has a few minor scrapes. It also has a lovely brass cluster of grapes as a hanger. We are cautiously attributing this lovely to the Frith brothers of Royal Victoria Gallery. The other possiblity is Hubard Gallery who did a lot of bust length women with lovely gilt enhancements. But the portrait-like ear pushes us to Frith.

    #7242    $250