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Full text of "The art of silhouette"

cflv 



THE ART OF 
SILHOUETTE 




THE MUSICIAN : By EUOUART. 
(In the possession of A. B. CONNOR, Esq.) 



THE AET OF 
SILHOUETTE 

BY DESMOND COKE 



LONDON : MARTIN SECKER 

NUMBER FIVE JOHN STREET ADELPHI 




BY THE SAME AUTHOR 
HELENA BRETT'S CAREER 
THE BENDING OF A TWIG 

I:TC. 



Pirtt jmblithed 1913 



PRINTED AT 

THK BALLANTYNK PRESS 
LONDON 



IN LOVE 
TO MY MOTHER 

WHO GAVE ME AMONG MUCH ELSE 
THE FIERCE JOY OF COLLECTING 

" Un m^me penchant nous unit" 



CONTENTS 

FAGS 

WARNINGS AND ADVERTISEMENT 11 

I. IN PRAISE OF COLLECTING 17 

II. A DEFENCE OF SHADOWS 29 

III. THE MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 41 

IV. DECADENCE 71 
V. EDOUART 97 

VI. CUPID AND SILHOUETTE 121 

VII. LABELS 135 

VIII. SOME COLLECTIONS 159 

IX. " CUT PAPER " 181 

X. PRACTICAL 205 

XI. NOW AND WHAT THEN ? 217 

INDEX 



PLATES 



I. The Musician, by Edouart Frontispiece 

II. A Lady, by Charles 22 

III. Two Beaux, by Charles and Miers 24 

IV. The Austere Art of Silhouette 30 

V. The Soft Charm of Silhouette 36 
VI. Two Ladies, by Mrs. Beetham 48 

VII. A Lady, by Mrs. Beetham 50 

VIII. A Pair, by Rosenberg 54 

IX. Silhouette in Red, by Spornberg 58 

X. A Lady, by Miers, Leeds 62 

XI. Silhouette Jewels 66 

XII. A Royal Pair, assigned to Charles 72 

XIII. Gold-tinted Silhouette, by Herve 76 

XIV. The Girl with the Bonnet, by Frith 78 
XV. Two Young Bucks, by Hubard and Gapp 80 

XVI. The Sisters, by Beaumont 84 

XVII. A Victorian Young Lady 90 

XVIII. An Undergraduate, by Edouart 98 

XIX. A Famous Actor, by Edouart 102 

XX. A Family, by Edouart 108 

XXI. A Group, by Torond 112 

XXII. A Silhouette Hand Screen 114 

9 



PLATES 

fating p. 

XXIII. A Page from Edouart's Folios 118 

XXIV. A Family, by Adolphe 122 
XXV. A Group, by Laura Mackenzie 128 

XXVI. A Lady, by Mrs. Beetham 1C 

XXVII. Framed Miniatures, by Mien and Beetham 142 

XXVIII. A Family, assigned to Field 146 

XXIX. The Spinet-Player, by Torond 148 

XXX. A Pope and a Soldier, by Foster 160 

XXXI. William Pitt, by Fepk 166 

XXXII. A Red-Coat Officer 170 

XXXIII. A Calligraphic Silhouette 174 

XXXIV. A Negative Silhouette 17 
XXXV. A Memorial Design 182 

XXXVI. Heraldic Emblem 188 

XXXVII. The White Houses 192 

XXXVIII. The Angler's Repast 200 

XXXIX. An Officer, by H. P. Roberts 210 

XL. A Modern Specimen, by Phil May 218 

XLI. Cuttings by Hubard and Edouart 222 



10 



WARNINGS AND ADVERTISEMENT 

THIS is a book, not a tome. 

It is intended, not for historians, antiquaries, 
experts, or curators : but rather for collectors, 
artists, lovers of the past, general readers, and all 
who think nothing human or curious alien from 
themselves. 

It is not a History of Silhouette. A work properly 
so named has lately been produced by Mrs. Nevill 
Jackson, who has traced her subject with scholarly 
completeness, fully analyzed the various processes, 
and added an exhaustive alphabetic list of all known 
profilists, however humble. 

This is a lighter book, which dares to think that 
silhouettes are not a very solemn subject, albeit 
once referred to by a back-street dealer as "them 
funeral things." The pleasures of collecting, what 
one can still find well worth collecting, the best- 
known profilists who worked in England, their curious 
labels, the bond of Love with Silhouette all down 
the ages, some vindication of a gentle art too long 

11 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

misunderstood these form only a few ingredients 
in the salad of my book. 

There will be no pompous, satisfying " we " ; 
no ancient tales of so-called silhouettes upon Etruscan 
vases, familiar in a dozen articles from magazines, 
nor much (I hope) on Etienne de Silhouette ; and I 
shall not pursue my subject through France, Germany, 
and Russia to the pale-eyed East. In spite of this 
I trust that there is not a little information boiled down 
from my note-books for these pages. I have not 
wantonly let anything of interest slip. 

In any case, however others like it, I have written 
this book from a real love of my subject and have 
loved writing it. Fourteen years have passed since, 
a Freshman of Oxford, I fared out into the High 
Street and, feeling somewhat reckless, paid eighteen- 
pence for two full-length profiles by Edouart. . . . 
I have been buying ever since, although alas ! at 
annually increasing prices. These essays therefore 
represent the fourteen -year experience of a mono- 
maniac who claims to be among the earliest of his 
peculiar brand. 

There are mistakes of course. As to this I can 
only say that gratitude shall leaven the grief with 
which I receive corrections. 

12 



WARNINGS 



It is futile, no less than ungracious, for second- 
comers to depreciate the pioneers, nor am I likely 
to wrong in such a way my good friend Mrs. Nevill 
Jackson, who has done everything within her power 
to help me in the chapter upon Edouart. It is 
in justice only to myself, should any critic find the 
same passages quoted in us both, that I here say 
the notes on which this book is based were largely 
made before the " History " was published or indeed 
begun. Any resemblance is therefore due to a mere 
common source. I have read Mrs. Jackson's book 
with interest and profit, then put it aside and tried 
to see how differently I could write my own. There 
is enough in Silhouette to fill a dozen volumes (I 
have touched only on the profilists who worked in 
England), and I hope these two first may be regarded 
as supplementary to one another. 

As to the pictures, it is neither pardonable love 
nor yet a sinful pride which has ordained that they 
should largely be from specimens in my possession ; 
but mere utility. Had my aim been to fill these pages 
with The Best Silhouettes, I should have canvassed 
all collectors for their specimens by Miers, Charles, 
and Mrs. Beetham. It seemed, however, much 
more useful to show, instead, each of the many 

13 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

methods used and at the least one silhouette by all 
of the most famous artists : a guide by which owners 
might set a name to their pet specimens. This I have 
kept before me in my buyings and my sellings (for 
the collector must do both), so that I believe the 
specimens here reproduced give a fair idea of each 
profilist at his best and most typical. That is, at 
least, their aim. 

Enough I One word, brief but no less sincere, of 
thanks must first be given to Mrs. Nevill Jackson, 
the Lady Sackvillc. and Mr. Francis Wellesley for 
their generous help, as also to all the collectors 
whose names will be found in these pages. Then, 
ignoring the contempt of those superior people 
mentioned in my second line, and with one last kindly 
warning to all who think that such a book as this 
should hold a purple patch or two on dainty Lady 
Betty, with the word " vastly " as refrain, let u 
take unashamed our pleasure in the old-world puppet 
show and, leaving cleverness to others, chat easily 
about the shadows that we love. 



IN PRAISE OF 
COLLECTING 



CHAPTER I 
IN PRAISE OF COLLECTING 

THE collector is usually thought a crank by his 
acquaintance, a nuisance by his friends, a miser by 
his relatives, a blessing by the dealers, and a deluded 
idiot by every one concerned. He is, as a matter 
of fact, the happiest if the poorest of God's 
creatures. He is the poorest, because if some 
miraculous twist of the wheel made him a millionaire 
to-morrow, he would merely collect white elephants 
instead of silhouettes and never have the cash to pay 
for all of them. . . . But he is the happiest, because 
he is obeying Nature's law. 

The wise Aristotle, in beginning his great work 
upon the Life Political, laid it down that Man is a 
social creature, but forgot to state that he is also 
a collecting animal. From the earliest dawn of history 
and long before it, he has obeyed one instinct, the 
instinct to amass. The cave man, as we know, 
collected flints (I hope my history is right) or wives. 
Adam probably came home, some days, delighted 

17 B 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

with a specially fine fig-leaf. Eve possibly collected 
apples, which would explain a lot. Drive out Nature 
with a pitchfork, said the Roman poet, she will 
hurry back. You cannot stop Man from collecting. 
All the world seeks something : curios, stamps, 
sovereigns, or adventures. The man-made law has 
ruled out scalps and wives, but other things remain. 
As long as it allows the curio-shops to open even 
five and a half days out of the seven, so long will Man 
find a way to gratify the universal instinct. 

What lies beneath it ? Dangerous to ask, of 
anything ; but I expect it has been long ago established 
that the collecting mania, like any form of sport, 
is based deep down upon a natural vanity. The 
cricketer thrusts forward fitness as his god, the 
connoisseur declares that he walks fifteen miles a 
day and walking is the real way to get fit : but one 
in his own hidden soul \akes pride to hit a ball when 
others would have missed, a second is delighted to 
detect a forgery or recognize from well across a road 
the shops where they are always selling off, with an 
all -day electric light casting its glamour on their 
" antique " jewels. 

Equally Man needs excitement ; an old truth which 
explains things so diverse as football, juvenile crime, 

18 



IN PRAISE OF COLLECTING 

and collecting. Life, left to itself, sends along its 
thrills too slowly ; but the collector, if always 
destitute of funds, never can lack expectation. Each 
day he fares out along the shops (for he will drift to 
London and soon learn half a hundred different 
productive routes), sure every day that fate will 
send him one of those historic finds that stand like 
milestones in the History of Art : a crystal ewer sold 
as glass or at the least a Raeburn for five shillings. 
And when instead he only finds a print or silhouette 
at probably one-quarter of the West-end price, with 
what joy does he bear it back collectors are the 
only men who carry parcels along Piccadilly ; with 
what excited hands unwrap it, safely home ; with 
what delirious haste find a small space for it upon 
his crowded walls ; how often leave his work and 
ramble absently, to find himself before his latest 
treasure 1 Each day is too short for him. He is 
never lonely, and can not be bored. He is the 
favourite of fortune. 

I have known people who collected spurs, corks, 
potted-meat lids, bobbins, pistols, playbills, labels 
from decanters, imperfect books, siege money, 
peasants' rings, insurance plates, illustrated music 
covers, suppressed plates, forgeries, masonic emblems, 

19 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

knockers, buttons, shoes, and Indian basketry. I 
have heard of a man who collected visiting cards, with 
the tiny pasteboard of Tom Thumb as his especial 
gem ; another who spent his lifetime seeking the 
twelfth Delft plate to complete his set, and found 
the owner of it finally to be a man whose sole remark 
was, " How much do you want for your eleven ? " . . 
and I have read about another rich collector, who 
bought single copies of first-edition Dickens' till he 
had got a set, when he sold, caring little what they 
fetched, and so began his blissful hunt again. All 
these men, pitied by their friends, were happy, for 
they had found an interest in life and rose each 
day with a new hope. Health, business, family 
the world in these ways might be terribly unkind ; 
but who could ever tell ? Perhaps that very after- 
noon fortune would throw across their path the 
perfect potted-meat lid or the ideal bobbin ! And 
life becomes a splendour to the man who has eternal 
hope for even a small thing. 

At first, of course, one buys at random anything. 
This seems cheap, that is early, the other is only a 
very little cracked. . . . Later, however, one begins 
to realize two facts. Only a billionaire could hope 
to make a good collection of everything antique, 



IN PRAISE OF COLLECTING 

and the man who wishes bargains must know more 
than any given dealer. Hence grows that modern 
malady, specialization ; for each collector wishes in 
the end to be the owner of a great collection, and 
not too far below the surface of all Britons there is 
lurking Shylock. The young collector sells his early 
purchases, burns the forgeries that are his con- 
noisseur wild oats, and fixes on a subject. 

And yet and yet who can resist a bargain ? The 
medley on my walls accuses me, though long enough 
ago I vowed to specialize in Silhouette. 

Certainly the man who keep himself for even a 
few years to one particular collection reading 
articles upon it, asking prices, seeing the specimens 
of others, above all constantly upon the hunt has 
his reward as slowly he begins to realize that dealers 
are curiously ignorant. That is how the truth 
comes home at first, for he does not reflect that the 
poor dealer must know something about everything, 
whilst he he has specialized and, never knowing it, 
he has become an expert ! 

Perhaps this narrow way rules out those big 
adventures at which I have hinted, but who shall 
say that humble connoisseurs are not rewarded with 
their little thrills ? yes, and their little tragedies. 

21 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

Oddly enough, the name of Charles brings back an 
episode in either kind from my adventures in the 
strait field of Silhouette. 

The first at Oxford, a dozen years ago. The back- 
street dealer, selling me a fine brass oval frame for 
a few shillings, rubs the grimy surface of its glass 
with finger scarcely whiter and remarks : " There's 
something in it, too, sir. It's dirt cheap at that." 
Imagine if, still full of youth's romance, I snatched it 
eagerly out of his hands, refused all wrapping, and 
hugged the new find with especial fervour as I rushed 
straight back to my College rooms. Even so soon, 
I knew that graceful oval beaten out of brass as the 
most early sort of Silhouette frame. . . . And when, 
sacrificing a new handkerchief, I cleaned the dirt of 
ages from its glass, there lay beneath it the superb 
example of Charles' "genius which graces plate ii of 
the present volume ! 

Sometimes I amuse myself, in abstract mood, with 
the debate : should I have returned it to the dealer, 
had he not obviously sold the picture also by his 
last remark? Ruskin, I think, somewhere has de- 
bated a like question, but I forget his answer. Mine 
generally is, No. The dealer takes his chance: the 
buyer is allowed his luck. Knowledge ought to be 

22 




PAINTED IN BLACK & GREY ON CARD 

By Charles. 



IN PRAISE OF COLLECTING 

its own reward. Nor would any conscience money taken 
to a dealer reach the poor owner who sold it to him. 
The other episode bound up with this graceful 
painter of the shadow portrait has only half a 
happy ending. The scene a Sussex farm ; the 
period, lately. Upon one side of a dresser the 
delightful portrait seen upon plate iii ; upon 
the other a similar wood oval frame, a like 
decorated glass, but void of silhouette. Tommy 
(I feel sure that would be his name), " a most mis- 
chievous boy," one day some years ago had come 
into the parlour and " rubbed the likeness off." . . . 
With misdirected gallantry he had begun upon the 
lady. Looking at the beau, imagine the belle's 
languor, her banked hair, her dainty laces, the tilt of 
her proud chin but the redeeming softness of her 
smile ! Oh, Tommy, Tommy, where, I often wonder, 
are you now ? Are you perhaps an artist, penitent ? 
or more deservedly in Wormwood Scrubs ? . . . 
Perhaps it may console all but the kid-glove senti- 
mentalists to learn that Tommy, embarking on the 
last half of his work, was found and given a good 
caning. The other frame is not in my collection. It 
would have been too grim, like the chair empty at a 
Christmas feast. 

23 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

It is a popular fallacy that the collector must be 
a rich man. As a matter of contrary fact, it has been 
shown already that if he is worth his salt, he never 
has a penny I But sophistry apart, the real collector 
has no need for any special income. He spends no 
more upon his hobby than other men on theirs, 
whether they be horses, wine, or taxis. He simply 
must adjust the choice of subject to his means. You 
can't be too poor to collect ; you easily may be too 
rich. What fun in collecting if once you can afford 
to buy in the most costly market ; if once the thrill 
of a find vanishes, the dare-devil sensation of I 
Oughtn't But I Must ? No, what the ideal collector 
needs is knowledge ; knowledge and a little pluck. 
He must not lean on signatures or pedigrees, for 
these are what cost money. He must discover for 
himself and not pay bigger prices for another's finds. 
He must shake free from the worship of names, and 
mistrust all that is written on a work of art except 
in the technique itself, for every one with eyes to 
read. Lastly, he must perhaps " be not the first by 
whom the new is tried," for nobody may follow, but 
even less " the last to lay the old aside." Like a 
cunning journalist, he must read signs and portents 
in the public taste, buying not what every one is 

24 





TWO BEAUX 
Painted (1) on glass by Charles, and (2) on chalk by Miers, London. 



IN PRAISE OF COLLECTING 

buying (this is where he must sell, if he has got no 
sentiment, the lucky fellow) but what he sees is 
slowly growing possible as a boom in the years to 
come. Thus he will find a mart not too overcrowded ; 
pass many happy days in rambles lit by an undying 
hope ; make endless friendships linked in a free- 
masonry that possibly no other can surpass ; solace 
his old age, when sport or love and other hobbies die, 
with all the indexings that he had always meant to 
do ; plan, during his last illness, how to rearrange 
the room once more ; and finally, from a more restful 
plane, look down upon the sale, glorying in each 
big bid for objects he had bought so cheaply but 
with such a pride ; and possibly rejoice to find his 
stodgy modern-boudoir relatives suddenly aware, 
as bid comes swift on bid, that he was no selfish 
idiot, after all, but something curiously like the 
saviour of his family ! 

Indeed, without diverging to another kind of shade 
from that of which this book will treat, who possibly 
can doubt but what the gentle spirits of the dear 
women who worked their love into a sampler, or 
found some consolation for life's hardship in an 
allegorical cut-paper, look down with an especial 
love on such as house their careful labours ? Every 

25 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

occultist must be a collector, for what more certain 
way to the goodwill of those who have passed by 
than through the care and treasuring of treasures 
that they loved so dearly ? 



26 



II 

A DEFENCE 
OF SHADOWS 



CHAPTER II 
A DEFENCE OF SHADOWS 

COLLECTORS in general, notwithstanding all of the 
above, have always been a race for whom there is 
reserved a special brand of genial enough pity, as 
for lunatics essentially harmless ; and Silhouette 
in particular has exacted martyrdom in all ages of its 
devotees, as witness the tragic episode of Edouart 
set forth upon a later page. 

Thus I do not complain when, asked at a dinner- 
party what I specially collect, my answer draws the 
comment : " Oh, how interesting, yes ! I know. 
Those little cut-out things. They did them on the 
piers." ... I do not complain of this. I am long 
hardened. But it inspired this chapter. 

The first thing to be said is that a silhouette is 
not, as many imagine, any form of a daguerreotype. 
The silhouette-collector's scorn for this last pro- 
duction is kin to that of the old-master expert for a 
silhouette. We can never understand at all each 
other's vices ! 

29 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

The next thing to be said, and later to be proved, 
is that it is not necessarily cut from paper. True, 
some of the earliest profiles were so produced ; true, 
many artists give most praise to those severe black 
heads with their fully adequate austerity (plate iv) ; 
but connoisseurs have long ago agreed that Miers, 
Mrs. Beetham, Rosenberg, and Charles are a quartette 
supreme in that hey-day of silhouette, the eighteenth 
century. Now all these, it will presently be shown, 
painted their portraits, whether on card, glass or 
plaster, and (save for such variations from type as 
three early-cut Beethams I have recently unearthed) 
never relapsed on the cut-paper method, which they 
doubtless loftily despised. 

The best silhouettists never touched a pair of scissors. 

There 1 I have set it on a line apart, and in italics 
like a serial's climax. Were I but Sterne, or did I 
live in a day when publishers were tame, it should 
be on a page apart, with vast black lines around 
and red hands pointing index fingers at the little 
central lump of type. For there lies Silhouette's 
whole vindication, and through the ignorance of 
it have many insults long been piled upon a very 
charming, nor too easy, art. 

These old-time profiles, miniature paintings not 

80 







THE AUSTERE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

(I ) Cut by Mrs. Beetham. (2) Mrs. John Lewes. 
(3) " Shelley." (4) Hollow-cut silhouette. 



A DEFENCE OF SHADOWS 

a half-crown cut-out, were not taken equally 
on piers. The galleries of the great profilists were 
cheek by jowl with the great artists' studios, at 
quite impeccable addresses, nor did a lower class by 
any means consort to them. Frankly in snobbish 
vein, since men will do much for their enthusiasms, 
I set down at random a list of great folk who have 
not despised to hold traffic with the profilist. First 
of all, George III, who seems to have spent half his 
reign posed against white screens ; Queen Charlotte, 
naturally involved with him, though she was also a 
collector on her own account ; Princess Elizabeth, 
their child, herself a profilist of merit ; Mrs. Delaney, 
of course ; Mrs. Fitzherbert, with her own private 
gallery ; Perdita Robinson, faithless for a moment 
to the painters ; George IV, to whom G. Atkinson 
of Brighton boasts to be " sole profilist " ; William 
IV and even Queen Victoria, who sat to Master 
Hubard ; Napoleon, giving profiles it is said 
as souvenirs ; Nelson (but beware of forgers) ; Pitt, 
more than once, and Fox ; Goethe, who loved the 
art and practised it no less, as perfect specimens on 
Mr. Wellesley's wall attest ; Gibbon, protruberant 
with snuff-box, for a frontispiece ; Goldsmith (now 
in the National Portrait Gallery) ; Mrs. Leigh Hunt, 

31 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

herself a cutter of great merit, as shown by portraits 
of Byron and Keats ; Sir Walter Scott, who sat to 
Edouart at Edinburgh in 1831 ; Paganini, by the 
same, as also the exiled Charles X, who sat to him at 
Holyrood ; or later still, Browning by Master Hubard 
these with Wellington, Fanny Burney, Burns (who 
sat to Miers : see the Clarinda Correspondence, 
January and February 1788), the Pompadour, and 
countless duchesses must surely touch the souls of 
such as think nothing of an art till it is patronized 
by the nobility. 

Or if there be those, and certainly there are, who 
value works of art by nothing but the prices paid, 
they may thrust from their mind the vision of a full- 
length portrait cut in black and framed complete 
for half a crown, if they will concentrate on dainty 
and expensive . . . miniatures superbly painted under 
a fine glass of gold and white ; glorious specimens of 
black and gold on glass ; priceless china, brooches, 
jewelled rings; or gem of Mrs. Nevill Jackson's 
beautiful collection an ivory patch-box, gold- 
mounted and with two panels of superb enamel 
flanking a wee portrait signed by Miers. None of 
these things cost little when first made, and they 
have not gone down in value. 

32 



A DEFENCE OF SHADOWS 

Again, for each man has his own peculiar god, 
if it be that authority is needed, let it here be said 
that the galleries and museums, tardily awakened, 
are buying specimens at last, whilst the Victoria 
and Albert has lately given space to a fine loan 
collection. 

But those who have once learnt the charm of this 
ancient and delightful art will seek for a more pleasant 
sanction. They may find it in a German author of 
1780, quoted in a twenty-year-old article by Andrew 
Tuer, who probably can claim to be the pioneer in 
Silhouette's revival so far as penmen go. "This 
art," writes this ingenious German, " is older than any 
other. In Arcadie itself profiles were drawn. The 
shepherds of that golden age, in their happy simplicity, 
traced shadows of their beloved on the sand to 
worship in absence. . . ." And later he says, though 
less nicely : " But now again, since this new culture, 
profiles are asked for since they give a truer idea 
of the face than the daubs of the ignorant. The 
taste of Man has revolted against Affectation and 
gone back to the Simple." 

The new culture was of course Lavater's science, 
physiognomy, and Lavater himself is no less glowing 
in his praise of profiles. " What more imperfect," 

33 C 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

he exclaims, " than a portrait of the human figure 
drawn after the shade ! And yet what truth does not 
this portrait possess ! This spring, so scanty, is for 
that reason the more pure. ..." Lavater builds 
his whole system largely upon silhouettes, of which in 
the quarto edition he gives some beautiful examples, 
and not content with this, hints at " a separate 
Work " wherein to treat of their significance more 
fully. " He that despises shades," says he, " despises 
physiognomy ; " or, in more ecstatic vein, he refers 
to Silhouette as "Little gold but the purest," a 
slender art but eloquent. 

Ruskin, another giant for such as worship names 
(I slowly spread my net, unseen), says in Prcderiia : 
" 1 had always been content enough with my front 
face in the glass, and had never thought of con- 
triving vision of the profile. The cameo finished I 
saw at a glance to be well cut, but the image it 
gave of me was not to my mind. I did not analyze 
its elements at the time, but should now describe 
it as a George the Third's penny, with a halfpenny- 
worth of George the Fourth, the pride of Amurath 
the Fifth, and the temper of eight little Lucifers in 
a swept-lodging." 

This confession from a connoisseur of beauty 

84 



A DEFENCE OF SHADOWS 

does much to justify Lavater in his praise of 
shadows. 

The fact is that we moderns, always excepting 
those who join the theatrical profession, have come 
to dread the sight of our own profiles. We are like 
Ruskin, " content enough " with our front face, and 
it is this view that the photographer decides to take 
after a swift tactful side-glance at our chins and 
noses. In the days before it was considered dowdy 
for a woman to show more than her lips from under- 
neath her hat, in the good old days when languid 
beauties posed on elbow-cushions the better to turn 
coldly an exact profile on their importunate admirers, 
it was expected of these last also that they should 
have their silhouettes taken for the lady's pleasure. 
And she, no doubt, pored over the learned Lavater's 
plates, trying to see which passion dominated her 
intended. . . . All this perished with photography. 
We can go right through life " content enough " with 
our full-face, giving our inner self away to every one 
but our complacent selves. 

These things ought not so to be. It is every man's 
plain duty to see his profile once. . . . 

Photography indeed, the chinless mortal's refuge, 
threatens to play him false, for in its most artistic form 

35 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

it long ago relapsed largely upon silhouette-effects 
and now its popular exponents are hastily seeing, 
with white screens and flashlights behind, what 
profit can be got from this revival of the shadow- 
portrait. 

To defend Silhouette from the heavy standpoint 
of those who claim it as a document would be mere 
cruelty, an insult to a most dainty art. Perhaps 
no Gainsborough or Lcly, with flattering brush, could 
throw the light on old coiffures that may be gained 
from eight early silhouette prints of dressed heads 
that lie in my portfolio ; probably no better record of 
the first authentic Peeler could be found than that 
quaintly hatted policeman who hangs upon the 
wall at Knole ; certainly no portrait would be so 
pitiless in its revelation to a female mind of " the 
hang of the skirt " in the eighteenth-century costume 
as two full-length profiles, a rarity so early, showing 
the coiffure and contour in an inimitable manner. 
But these advantages, if such they be, are mere 
side-issues to the connoisseur, who cares for none of 
them. 

No, if he had to justify the silhouette, he would soar 
to far loftier heights, to Plato maybe and his image 
of the Cave. Perverting that great philosopher's 

86 







THE SOFT CHARM OF SILHOUETTE 

1. By Mrs. Bull. 2. Eda O., 1799-1819. 

3. G. A. Girling, by Lane Kelfe. 4. A Lady, unknown. 



A DEFENCE OF SHADOWS 

idea of a man chained within a prison, seeing all men 
and things that passed as shadows thrown against 
the light and knowing them as outlines only, he 
might build up a fine theory as to the reality of 
shadows alone in a world where colour has been 
proved a luxury added by each of us to that 
vague Thing Itself. . . . 

Luckily there is a simpler way. Izaac Walton, 
having written immortally on fishing, added these 
equally undying words : " And next let me add 
this, that he that likes not the book should like the 
excellent picture of the trout, and some of the other 
fish." So I; or in the equally fine words of another 
great man, " Si monumentum requiris, circumspice." 
If you like not my pleading on behalf of shadows, 
you should like the exquisite fineness of the profiles 
by Mrs. Beetham, the dignity of Rosenberg, the 
character of Edouart, the convincing pleasantness 
of those simpler portraits that I have massed on one 
page and might call after a scrapbook formula, 
"Four Favourites " (pi. v). If you seek Silhouette's 
best praise, merely turn these pages. Looking on 
those dainty miniatures or chiselled outlines, artistry 
superb in either case, the just man no longer will 
judge Silhouette by the cheap specimens poured forth 

37 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

for these last fifty years from the arcades and piers, 
to which photography too long has banished its 
defeated rival. 

Absurd that these crude outlines, snipped for 
six coppers and received with giggles, should any 
longer be allowed to prejudice the judgment upon 
Mrs. Beetham ! Nobody thinks the less of Cosway 
because dear modern ladies persist in painting 
miniatures, nor do we posthumously condemn Gains- 
borough because he was a Royal Academician. . . . 

The whirligig of time truly brings in its revenges, 
and there are some who hope that the camera, which 
has killed so much that was beautiful, from wood- 
engraving downward, may yet see the West-end, its 
one-time temple, again triumphantly invaded by 
its ancestral foe, Nature's own real art, the shadow. 



38 



Ill 

THE MEN BEHIND 
THE SHEET 



CHAPTER III 
THE MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

THE mystic-sounding title to this chapter is largely 
allegorical, for there is little reason to suppose that 
all the profilists here named actually used a sheet, or 
anything approaching it, whilst practising their art. 

There is a familiar eighteenth-century print, from 
Lavater's quarto edition, that clearly shows what may 
be best described as the sheet method of taking 
likenesses in shade. This is entitled " A Sure and 
Convenient Machine for Drawing Silhouettes." Upon 
the left, half hidden by his square sheet (paper, need 
I add ?), stands the artist, totally absorbed ; centre, 
as actors say, sits a lady of the period, so intent upon 
looking her best that in an agony she clutches with 
both hands the posts and stays which hold the 
artist's sheet firm to her chair ; and to the right a 
candle on elaborate carved stand, to lend a touch of 
dignity no doubt to the whole studio. 

A French variant differs only in the candle's greater 
luminosity and in the head-dress of the lady, who has 

41 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

abandoned the English nglig6 of loose hair for an 
elaborate coiffure. Above the English print and 
underneath the French occurs this diagnosis of the 
sitter by Lavater : " This is the Character I would 
assign to the silhouette of this Young person ; I find 
in it, Goodness without much Ingenuity, Clearness 
of Idea, and a ready Conception, a mind very in- 
dustrious, but, little governed by a lively Imagina- 
tion, and not attached to a rigid punctuality ; we 
do not discern in the Copy, the Character of Gaiety 
which is conspicuous in the Original ; but the Nose is 
improved in the silhouette, it expresses more In- 
genuity. . . ." Face-experts have never won the 
name for gallantry ; nor would it seem (to be no less 
unsparing) that aptitude in punctuation always 
goes with skill in physiognomy. 

A less-known print of slightly later period, entitled 
simply "Method of Taking Profiles," clearly owes 
its origin equally to whichever version of the other 
was first in the field : for though the two protagonists 
are lavishly redressed, their positions reversed, and 
the candle given a more homely table, the chair is 
copied slavishly, the man stands as before, the lady 
still clutches at the post and stay. This artist 
clearly did not wish to alter anything that possibly 

42 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

could spoil a process probably unknown to him by 
anything except his copy. Candle-stand and dress 
were safe : but we may fancy him reflecting, this poor 
nervous plagiarist, that if the lady let go of that 
stay, it might mean wrecking the whole silhouette. . . . 
Our own knowledge, unhappily, is not much 
superior, for though there are advertisements of 
sundry wonderful machines, which are considered 
elsewhere in this volume, there is (so far as I can 
learn) no way of discovering whether Rosenberg, for 
instance, actually used any such contrivance or 
whether, like most modern silhouettists, he scorned 
even the sheet method and trusted to his eyes and a 
white background only. These mechanic chairs and 
general abracadabra methods would appeal, I imagine, 
only to so-called " Papyrotomists " and not to any 
artist proper. 

Lavater, however, was more concerned with 
actuality than art ; he valued profiles only as the 
most exact of portraits : and so is found giving the 
most elaborate instructions to those who wish to 
take a person's shade, but at the same time (be it 
noted) in such a way as to make it clear that his 
apparatus was not in ordinary use. 

" The common method," he distinctly says (vol. ii. 

43 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

chapter vii., 1789 octavo edition), "is accompanied 
with many inconveniences. It is hardly possible the 
person drawn should sit sufficiently still ; the 
designer is obliged to change his place, he must ap- 
proach so near to the person that motion is almost 
inevitable, and the designer is in the most incon- 
venient position ; neither are the preparatory steps 
everywhere possible, nor simple enough." 

Here, in this passage written at the heyday of shade- 
taking, is the undoubted locus classicus, as pedants 
say, or stock passage for the " common method " ; 
and it seems to me that, with its cryptic last three 
words, it lays itself open to just about as many con- 
tradictory and utterly convincing explanations as any 
table of statistics or debated scripture. Here, at any 
rate, is what Lavater liked : 

" A seat purposely contrived would be more con- 
venient. The shade should be taken on post paper, 
or rather on thin oiled paper, well dried. Let the 
head and back be supported by a chair, and the shade 
fall on the oil paper behind a clear, flat, polished glass. 
Let the drawer sit behind the glass, holding the frame 
with his left hand, and, having a sharp blacklead 
pencil, draw with the right. The glass, in a detached 
sliding frame " (grimly, be it added, like the business 

44 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

part of a guillotine), " may be raised or lowered, 
according to the height of the person. The bottom 
of the glass frame, being thin, will be best of iron, 
and should be raised so as to rest steadily upon the 
shoulder. In the centre, upon the glass, should be 
a small piece of wood or iron, to which fasten a small 
round cushion, supported by a short pin, scarcely 
half an inch long, which, also, may be raised, or 
lowered, and against which the person drawn may 
lean. By the aid of a magnifying lens, or solar 
microscope, the outlines may be much more accurately 
determined and drawn." 

If this be " simple " by comparison, the common 
method must indeed have been a nightmare ; but at 
the risk of seeming obstinate, I will not, until proof 
arrives, believe that artists like Miers, Rosenberg, or 
Mrs. Beetham, who claimed to rank with the great 
miniaturists of their period, fastened their sitters into a 
chair so reminiscent of the dentist's parlour or 
expected them to look pleasant with the iron enter- 
ing into their shoulder. . . . 

In any case, the artist is his work, nor can his 
methods have any interest beyond the technical. Of 
the great profilists it may be said, that when the 
shadow had been duly traced, their labours had not 

45 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

yet begun. A child or an automaton could do so 
much and both, as we shall see, were doing it ere 
half a century had passed. The life-sized shade must 
first of all be brought down to prettier dimensions 
later, at any rate, by a machine, whatever these 
first artists did and then began the infinitely 
delicate work which formed the artist's individual 
hall-mark. 

How individual, only a connoisseur or any one 
observant beyond the usual can judge. Even with 
those who used the scissors only, there is no confusion 
possible ; an Edouart is as different from a Gapp as, 
say, a Cosway from an Engleheart. Swift who so 
soon as 1745 has more than one verse on the lady's 
new accomplishment, remarks about Clarissa's shade 
of a man, cleverly enough adorned with a " grey 
worsted stocking " eye : 

" / must confess that as to me, sirs, 
Though I ne'er saw her hold the scissars, 
I now could safely swear it is her's." 

This being so, it has seemed to me worth while to 
give a short description of the most characteristic 
points in the work done by the best profilists. Many 
silhouettes, " Family " or collected, are unsigned ; 

46 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

still more bear the wrong artists' names piously in- 
scribed upon their back ; and it will be easy for any 
one, using these notes and the accompanying plates, 
to remedy these things, which most assuredly ought 
not so to be. 

Place aux dames! Indeed as often they de- 
serve it. 

To Mrs. Beetham must be awarded the palm of 
merit among profilists, unless the judge be anyone 
whose tastes run to a classic sternness. She, as 
befits her sex, had nothing of that quality. Hers 
not to leave Nature's own shade in its uncompromis- 
ing, beautiful simplicity : she held the mirror up and 
lo ! her sitters found themselves (one almost must 
suspect) more graceful, delicate and fair than even 
they themselves had hitherto suspected. No bow is 
out of place ; no ribbon lies in any but a perfect 
curve ; no single hair strays save where it is almost 
fatally becoming ; no one could be more beautiful 
until you see the next. 

Examine Miss Di Jones and Mrs. Mathews, who face 
each other on plate vi, just as they were taken 
together, in Fleet Street, during the month of July 
1792. 

The faces, as in all of Mrs. Beetham's shades, are 

47 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

left most properly in a dead black ; her art is given its 
full rein with ribbons, jewels, hair and dress. Be- 
neath a microscope (and surely that is how she must 
have looked at them whilst working) each hair, 
one can literally state, may be separately seen. Before 
work which combines so rarely the wonder of absolute 
detail and the charm of general effect it is hard indeed 
to refrain from the modern weakness of superlatives : 
impossible for even the fruitiest conservative to hold 
back from poor Silhouette, so long rejected and mis- 
understood, the grand old name of " Art " defamed 
by every music hall and soiled with all ignoble use. 

By no means every specimen retains its labels the 
dear Victorians have seen to that and some have 
even lost their frames : but I believe, till somebody 
corrects me, that I have discovered a sure and easy 
test for Mrs. Beetham's work in her odd convention 
for finishing the bust. Most profilists cut off the body 
with a natural curve, but Mrs. Beetham seems always 
to have made it end in a way which reference to 
the illustrations on plate vi, vii, or xxvi will make 
clearer than two chapters of description. Rosenberg 
had somewhat the same trick, but those who turn 
to plate viii will find it different enough to be easily 
distinguished. 

48 





C/3 

i -? 



DH 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

No one, in any case, could fail to recognize the 
touch of Mrs. Beetham. She is the very luxury of 
Silhouette. The woman's hand is there, delicate, 
fine : and when, as with our ladies here, the Beetham 
decoration is around the portraits firm white and 
gold design, with more erratic spots inside there 
can be no mistake. Fine, dignified, old oval frames 
in dark brown pear-wood lend the last touch to a 
perfect decoration (plate vii). 

Yet not the last, for Mrs. Beetham's best work is 
painted on a convex glass ; behind, there is a slab of 
chalk ; and thus Miss Di Jones throws her charming 
profile, much as she did in the flesh more than a 
century ago, dead black upon the white behind. 
That Mrs. Mathews, on the right side of my mantel- 
piece, can not do quite the same is merely a price 
exacted by the laws of light and a mania for 
" pairs." 

Charles, of the same period and 130 Strand, 
*' opposite the Lyceum," was another London pro- 
filist who literally made shadow-pictures. Neither 
artist kept to the one formula ; no doubt some 
clients found the cream and gold glass too costly, so 
that one finds both working on mere humble card, 
whilst Charles upon his labels describes himself as 

49 D 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

" the original inventor on glass." Upon the other 
hand, both painted also miniatures on ivory (for] which 
Charles asked four guineas), and on plate xxvii 
may be found a nice specimen of Mrs. Beetham in 
this to me less satisfying mood. No, having once 
seen their real shadow-pictures, one feels inclined, as 
urged by the advertisement, to refuse utterly All 
Other Kinds ! Charles' young dandy flings forward 
on the chalk his bored, contemptuous shade in a 
manner which, alas, is better not even attempted by 
photography. (Plate iii.) 

Charles was niggardly with labels, and unless 
specimens are signed minutely below the bust or on it 
(as with the last specimen) his hair-work is the safest 
clue. Charles painted hair by an ingenious formula 
combining an apparent minuteness with rapidity of 
execution. At a first glance his detail seems no less 
astonishing than that of Mrs. Beetham ; but look 
again and you will see that where that careful lady 
conscientiously painted each hair of every separate 
lock, the easy-going male, with a hand cynically free, 
left on the paper a swift tangle, giving hardly less of 
an effect. It must not, indeed, be supposed by any 
ardent partisan in the fast-spreading sex-war that we 
have here a patent indication of the female's superior 

50 




SHADOW-PORTRAIT ON GLASS 
By Mrs. Beetham, 1795. 
(In the possession of Francis Wellesley, Esq.) 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

thoroughness ; for Charles was an artist (was he not 
R.A. ?) and as such quite willing to give labour where 
it repaid its time. A glance at the beau's cravat or 
ruffle will establish this . 

It may be said of Charles, more even than of other 
profilists, that he must be astounded, and at times 
disgusted, if from the other plane he can observe the 
many silhouettes in various collections that bear the 
name of Charles. ... It seems, in fact, enough that 
any specimen on card should be of the late eighteenth 
century : " by Charles " appears forthwith upon its 
back, without so much as that small " ? ", which 
might allow a second trial hereafter in an age less 
ignorant of Silhouette. The work in particular of 
Mrs. Bull (plate v), another clever woman-profilist, 
who worked " Opposite the India House " around 
1785, is seldom signed and almost exactly similar 
in style to that of Charles : a serious problem for 
those anxious intelligently to put " attributions " 
upon their collection. 

Rosenberg is possibly the easiest quarry for those 
engaged in this most fascinating sport. Let it be 
said at once that in this, as in all else, rules are a mere 
stumbling-block to those who light first on the excep- 
tions : each of the great profilists experimented upon 

51 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

methods other than his own ; but at his most typical, 
Rosenberg of Bath is almost unmistakable, even if he 
had been less lavish with his labels. Painted for the 
most part on flat glass, of an uncompromising hard- 
ness which (we shall see, when labels are examined) 
he intended " in imitation of stone," encased generally 
in a square brass frame with oval opening, his 
portraits could never be confused with those of any- 
body unless Jorden. He is the most severe of profile- 
painters, and such curious aberrations as the blue sash 
across a George IV in Mr. Wellesley's collection must 
be accounted the exception. Colour, usually, rules 
out Rosenberg. 

Luckily, however, further proofs are still forth- 
coming. Every collector worthy of the name wastes 
hours in every day trifling with his pet specimens : 
and once, unframing a fine Rosenberg with no very 
special object beyond the pleasure of refraining it 
I hit upon a very interesting fact. The black bust 
had always seemed to be against a background of 
white paper ; but now in one hand I held a black 
profile upon glass and in the other a pink profile on 
white paper ! 

Immediately four other Rosenbergs must be un- 
framed an excellent excuse for yet more waste of 

52 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

time and although bought from various sources 
all of them showed the same backing. 

Rosenberg, in fact, set his stern black outlines 
against a bright pink background ; perhaps, I think, 
with some idea of gaining an effect of marble ; and this 
pink silhouette, left where the black-painted glass 
has defied the colour-eating sun, is no less sure a proof 
of Rosenberg's work than a label for those who find it 
behind their specimens. Incidentally they will come 
on a generous layer of antique paper, scribbled over 
with brush-marks and pencil lines ; even, if so lucky 
as myself, some little memory of the artist himself. 
On one such pencilled sheet appears this fragment of 
methodical direction : 

Mrs. Richard . . . 
No. 8 Georg . . . 
before 4. 

Rosenberg, it has been said, usually worked with the 
black mass, an authentic shadow, and his weakest 
portraits are those in which he tried to indicate a 
ruffle or the wave of hair. The inconclusive thin 
brown-looking outline that results is curious in so fine 
a craftsman. For this reason he is more successful, 
as a rule, with his male portraits. The method of 

53 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

Charles or Mrs. Beetham suited Woman and her dainty 
laces better than the hard outline of Rosenberg or 
Edouart. The Bath beau who tilts his chin superbly 
on plate viii would be even better, robbed of his 
quite inconclusive ruffle. 

If this be not enough for those who think they may 
possess a Rosenberg, here is another hint. Mr. 
Weymer Mills, in one of those dainty articles of his 
which waft one back magically to the gay and charm- 
ing period of Silhouette, remarks : "On the back of 
each Rosenberg portrait, scarcely decipherable, is that 
magic word Bath." I must, however, add for the 
benefit of those whom this discourages, that long and 
ardently as I have peered at the back of my seven 
specimens (five of them with labels) I never yet have 
come upon the magic word. 

For those who find a fascination in this sport of 
attribution, a sport at which some amateurs are all too 
skilful, Spornberg might seem a godsend but in 
reality is just the opposite. He is, in an expressive 
phrase, Too Easy. There is no sport at all. A 
Spornberg silhouette is literally " signed all over." 

Spornberg, for line or elegance, is not to be com- 
pared with the other great profilists who worked in 
England at his period, the late eighteenth century. 

54 




CO 




O 

Z 

O 

Q 

UJ 

H ^ 

S E 
< i 

OH 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

There is a certain lack of definition, a fluffiness, about 
his portraits, and a careless handling of costume 
detracts not a little from the faces, which are life-like 
enough. He probably would never have won any 
reputation except for his originality of process. 
Spornberg may be said to have adapted on glass the 
earliest form of paper-silhouette the " hollow-cut " 
and to have added a refinement. He painted in 
black upon the inside of convex glass the hollow 
outline, as it were, of his sitter's profile, so that the 
glass was all opaque and black except for a white pro- 
file. On this white portion he roughly painted, still in 
black, hair, eye, ear, even lines or wrinkles, with just 
a few brush-splutters that might be said to stand for 
gown or coat. The portrait was now done. Sporn- 
berg or an assistant now scraped an elaborate, although 
crude, oval pattern round the portrait and next applied 
red pigment lavishly behind, till portrait and border 
alike stood out bright red against the sombre black. 

Messy perhaps the method, and dubious the art 
of its result : but none the less, set in its fine gilt oval, 
a startlingly rich whole and a delightful decoration, 
holding its own as such with almost any form of 
silhouette. 

Spornberg, in whom neatness cannot ever have 

55 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

been the prime virtue, scratched a crude signature 
before the red paint was applied. These inscriptions 
vary between " W. Spornberg invenit Bath," and 
" W. Spornberg fecit Bath," as well as in the absence 
or presence of a date. Lady Sackville at Knole has 
no fewer than eight Spornbergs of the Ansley family, 
dated from 1773 to twenty years later. Two in my 
collection (pi. ix), gems with an added value as a 
gift of friendship, are both signed "W. Spornberg 
fecit Bath " (except that neither of the t's is crossed), 
but only upon the male portrait is the date set, 
" 1793." To one of those at Knole we are indebted 
for the knowledge of his workshop, 5 Lower Church 
Street, Bath. In a day when every other building 
bears its mural tablet, "Here lived So-and-So," it 
would be worth while to commemorate in stone the 
places where great men and fair ladies thronged 
to have their portraits taken by this " new and 
fashionable " art, now dead. 

Strictly, no doubt, Foster of Derby should rank 
with the next century : but as he is said to have 
lived from 1761 to 1864, there is some latitude in 
time. Dates are the chief obstacle to anyone who 
would explore a subject so long neglected and indeed 
despised as Silhouette : and I have not been able to 

56 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

discover exactly in what year Foster started work. A 
portrait by him of Pope Pius VI in 1799 (pi. xxx) may 
have been among his earliest achievements (Foster 
in that year would be 38), or may have been merely 
copied from Merchant's relief of the Pope published 
as an engraving by Colnaghi in the early months of 
the next year. In any case, whatever his century, 
the fact that he worked in red brings him conveniently 
on\he scene here. Foster's red, however, pales into a 
brown by Spornberg's, and is relieved with gold. Mrs. 
Nevill Jackson thinks it probable that Foster used a 
machine for taking the outline itself (that record 
which a profilist would need who advertised, as most, 
"Original shades kept"), but be this as it may, his 
work upon that outline was both elaborate and good. 
The face alone, in this case, is of a dark russet brown, 
the hair and costume gold ; whilst on one specially fine 
specimen presented to me by a kind dealer-friend, the 
subject, besides the glory of a gold dress spattered 
with minute gilt trefoil pattern, bears the adornment of 
a gold hat trimmed splendidly in white and green. 
This pattern on his ladies' dresses is indeed a kind of 
Foster hall-mark. Another specimen, this time in 
the rarer blue-grey, bears the same design minute 
spots grouped in threes but gracefully enough in 

57 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

white : for this is a Foster that lacks gold. The 
portrait of Pope Pius VI has the papal insignia (I 
choose a word at random) blazoned on its coat in 
gold. Three men, two soldiers and a seeming under- 
graduate, are done no less in red and gold, but each 
has an effective touch of black up at his neck. 

Foster was either not quite fortunate about his 
sitters or else he exaggerated noses a thought which 
makes me doubt yet more his use of that machine 
but for the rest he gained a marvellous effect of life. 
The perky soldier on plate xxx is always picked out as 
a splendid study by those who suffer my collection, 
knowing nothing about Silhouette and clutching 
gladly at a human topic. " Can't you see him ? " 
they exclaim. . . . And so indeed you can : the 
rakish angle of his cap, the pouted chest, the half- 
smile on his lips dear me, to think that he lived 
long before America had given us the great word, 
swank ! . . . Well, he avoided rag-time, and I hope 
that Life was kind to him, as he deserved. He 
cheers me up and is a friend of mine. 

Foster, to my mind, has not been given his due 
place among the greater profilists. Perhaps his 
actual originality, his groping after a new form, 
counted as nothing but a vice to people that knew 

58 




PAINTED IN RED ON GLASS 
By Spornberg: Bath, 1793. 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

not the Graf ton Galleries. Foster is the very Post- 
Impressionist of Silhouette. He was not satisfied 
with the old order and its limitations : he wanted 
freedom, demanded to get nearer Nature ; but (it 
is here the parallel must fail) he seldom lost sight of 
the beautiful. Perhaps the fact that he discarded 
labels for the most part, signing underneath the bust, 
may be a proof that he considered himself artist and 
not showman. In any case he proved himself some- 
thing of an epicure in frames. The typical brass - 
oval of a Foster papier mache frame must have been 
a luxury of cost, for it is good both in design and 
workmanship ; but those who have experimented 
know well the difference made in even the best 
silhouette by any change of setting and Foster 
above all things was an experimentalist. Some of 
his frames, in place of the acorn ring attachment 
usual to papier mache, bear a brass crown surmounted 
by a twisted ribbon whereon the name " Foster " is 
stamped in relief. Sometimes (as in the portrait of 
Pope Pius VI) he seems to have thought this sufficient 
signature ; but on the other hand a pair in Mrs. 
Cairnes' collection, quite conventional for such an 
outlaw of the art as Foster, not only bear this Foster 
scroll but also the full signature of Foster at 125 

59 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

Strand (for the best in all art ever drifts to London). 
Others, like one of George the Third, bear no clue 
either upon frame or card, except that the reddish- 
brown hue and general treatment of the gold lead even 
the least optimistic of collectors to write " Foster " 
on the back. % 

It is, however, fortunate that Foster for the most 
part signed freely in one way or another, for he had 
imitators even in his shade of brown. A pretty pair 
of silhouettes thus coloured and touched with gold 
in the collection of Captain Stanton, bears this 
interesting label : 

" Bath, 
Mr. J. S. Mitchell 

Profilist 

17 Union Street. 

Executes Likenesses in a superior style of 
Elegance in Bronze Tints, &c., which contain 
the most forcible expression of Animation 
that can possibly be obtained by such mode 
of representing the Human Countenance." 

Those not ashamed to glance on, like a female novel- 
reader, at a future chapter, will see that " a superior 
style of elegance " and " most forcible expression " 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

are gems snatched from the Miers label. Mitchell, 
however, in altering the word " convey " to " con- 
tain " did not improve his copy ; nor can he be 
accounted better in his portraits than old Foster. 

Foster was liberally old before he died in 1864, 
spanning the golden age of silhouette and the first 
birth of its supplanter in a single lifetime ; and I do 
not doubt that any keen soul who would risk a night 
in Derby could still hear at second-hand the cen- 
tenarian's racy tales of " People I Have Painted." 

If in considering those giants who made Silhouette 
an art in the late eighteenth century, Miers has been 
left till last, it is not by degree of merit, but rather 
on a principle exactly opposite. 

Even were comparisons not duly odious, it would 
be hard to make a final judgment between Mrs. 
Beetham and her Leeds rival, Miers. Each had 
transcendent merits ; either was aiming at a rather 
different thing. Not mine, then, to award the palm. 
Taking my cue rather from that sphere where mere 
spatial position counts for most I mean the Music 
Hall I have, so to speak, given Mrs. Beetham the 
top, Miers the bottom, of the bill. Thus, like the 
artistes, each can claim to hold the premier position. . . . 

John Miers, at any rate, was a fine craftsman, 

61 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

quick to take a likeness and able to join obvious 
fidelity with beauty of decorative effect. His work 
falls rather naturally into three rough periods : Leeds, 
early London, and nineteenth century. Of these the 
first is easily best, not only in quality of rareness, but 
in actual beauty. Head-dress, costume, laces every- 
thing of course favoured the artist then, but quite 
apart from this, Miers in Leeds and during those 
first years in London before the dawn of a new 
century (he seems to have moved about 1790) worked 
in pure black, resisting the temptation of alluring gold. 
Painted on oval slabs of chalk, the face dead black, 
feathers or laces shading to transparent grey ; his 
early portraits have a soft quality yet never sink, like 
some by Charles, to mere prettiness or insipidity. In 
the authentic frames of oval hammered brass they 
make both in shape and delicacy an ideal decoration 
on a plain cream wall. A glance at the specimen 
here shown (plate x), a specimen backed with the rare 
Leeds label, will prove in a moment the impossibility 
of a comparison too often made. Miers, no less than 
Mrs. Beetham, was capable of detail ; he was a 
miniaturist of surpassing merit (plates xi and xxviii) ; 
but whereas Mrs. Beetham's pride was clearly in the 
wonderful minuteness of what one possibly may 

62 




PAINTED ON CHALK BY MIERS, LEEDS 
Label unbroken : original brass frame. 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

call her trimmings, Miers above all things was out 
for his effect. It must be said of him, indeed, that 
all his portraits, of whatever period, have an air of 
life that is utterly convincing. 

The work of John Miers on first reaching London is 
scarcely to be distinguished from that of his earlier 
period. The label of course altered and the style of 
framing : but still the portrait was plain black. Miers 
unluckily dated but seldom ; only one specimen in 
my collection, the miniature on ivory, has a minute 
date, 1805, painted underneath the bust ; and it is 
thus difficult to say at what date he began the gilt 
work, which became almost a habit when he joined 
partnership with Field. So far, however, as my 
observation of specimens by Miers goes, it was not till 
the perruque had vanished that the gold appeared. 
Of unsigned silhouettes I possess two that show both 
gold-touching and perruques ; the first reputed to 
be Lord Howe, black and gold with a white stock, the 
other one of those rare but delightful soldiers with 
gay red coats and epaulettes of gold, which has in this 
case strayed on to the hair. 

As to this last embellishment, condemned so 
heartily by that aesthete among silhouettists, Edouart, 
let it be said at once that Miers, with the later Herve, 

63 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

was almost the only artist who could employ it with- 
out being vulgar. It cannot, indeed, be claimed that 
its addition improved either the truth or the decora- 
tive charm of his portraits, yet at its best it does gain 
an effect of intimacy which does not offend the casual 
critic and may have been delightful to relative or 
lover. The nicest specimen of this work that I have 
found is a curiously life-like portrait of a young man, 
painted upon chalk, with each fold of the coat and 
almost every hah* of the head traced in a manner 
delicate almost beyond credibility (plate iii). The face 
itself, by now, is black no longer but of a dark brown, 
which makes me wonder whether Miers had not sat 
even for a moment at the feet of his new rival Foster. 
What methods were or were not adopted by any 
profilist it is impossible or rash to say, for here was 
an art above all things of experiment ; but though 
Miers painted upon card, I have yet to learn that he 
ever cut a portrait out of paper. I have not even, 
with certainty, yet found a Miers painted upon glass. 
One, which was hopefully reported to me as 
" Napoleon " (a name that I have since erased, along 
with others upon sundry specimens, for reasons 
mainly of costume and period), has certainly the 
touch of Miers in his later manner. Indeed, if it be 

64 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

by another hand, the treatment of the scarf has 
almost gone beyond the limit of what one may call 
justifiable plagiarism. Certainly a striking and firm 
portrait, this silhouette is backed with wax of a 
pink-tinged yellow applied upon the glass : a further 
reason to regret the lack of label. Myself, I own to 
prejudice against this wax-backing, valued by some 
connoisseurs : it cracks on the least provocation and 
even when whole lends no charm that I can see to the 
original profile, nor was it much used by the best 
artists of the early period. Mrs. Beetham, it is true, 
a notable enough exception, employed a brownish- 
yellow wax as background now and then, for I have 
seen authentic pairs with the unbroken label, but to 
my mind this rather grimy shrine ruins the dainty 
portrait, which stands out so prettily against the 
white chalk of more normal specimens. 

Miers, in any case, certainly painted upon ivory, 
and it is still possible to pick up delightful miniatures, 
under an inch long, dethroned no doubt from rings or 
lockets by unappreciative Victorians. These are 
usually signed " Miers " under the bust in writing of 
almost incredible minuteness. These vary from 
the pig-tail period, severely drawn in black with just 
the hair and ruffles melting to transparency, very 

65 E 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

much like the Miers formula on chalk, on through 
the early nineteenth century and London period of 
that shown on pi. xxvii. and dated 1805, to specimens 
with brown faces and elaborate gilt-touching. Mrs. 
Fleming of Folkestone has in her collection a portrait, 
in the middle period, of Sir Walter Scott, a miniature 
gem apart from the interest of subject. 

Some of these miniatures, by Mrs. Beetham and 
the other giants of her art, have been spared in the 
costly jewelled setting lockets, boxes, rings of 
which their own age judged them worthy. Both 
Mrs. Nevill Jackson and Mr. Francis Wellesley (pi. ix) 
have specialized in this luxurious department, and one 
may doubt whether the world holds many more of 
these delightful trinkets among its stock of undis- 
covered treasure-trove. Humble connoisseurs, or 
those too late upon the scene, must thus console 
themselves with the reflection, jaundiced and yet 
philosophic, that frames are a mere accident (in 
logic's sense) to the real silhouette-collector ! 

Other profilists there are ; workers on chalk, paper, 
glass of these last Jorden notably or Hamlet who 
cry for mention in a rapid survey of the great eighteenth- 
century pioneers in this new and short-lived accom- 
plishment, but I have mentioned all whose work is 

66 










SILHOUETTE JEWELS 

and 3 Ring, Miers; 2 Locket, Mrs. Beetham ; 4 and 6, Brooch, Miers ; 5, Ring, 

Gonord ; 7, Patchbox, Miers. 
In the possession of Francis Wellesley, Esq. 



MEN BEHIND THE SHEET 

likely to fall in the way of any average collector; 
most whose profiles were of the first rank in merit. 

There are, however, perfect specimens to which, 
unhappily, no name can be attached with any cer- 
tainty at all. Bereft of label and signature alike, the 
owner who can scribble great names at hazard on their 
back is either a vain idiot or Hope incarnate. Under 
this head (so far as I know) fall those splendid soldiers 
with their red coats and gold buttons, of which a 
beautiful example, from Mr. Wellesley's collection, 
appears upon pi. xxxii. It is of course the proper thing, 
indeed the only possible, to deprecate all bronze, and 
still more any colour, on a shadow-picture ; yet when 
I look on these glorious officers in their mellow colours, 
nothing less scandalous than water-colour miniatures 
with blackened faces, I realize in shame how far even 
the most logical among us sacrifice our principles when 
faced by beauty. 



67 



IV 
DECADENCE 



CHAPTER IV 
DECADENCE 

SILHOUETTE, as I have shown, was always a thing of 
infinite variety. From its first birth, as a mere 
portrait cut from paper, there were variations ; for 
quite apart from differences in size, half the earliest, 
indeed the most delightful specimens, were cut 
literally " from " white paper, leaving the face 
hollow, and laid on a black background so that the 
result was a black profile just as in the later process. 
Sad, indeed, that these masterly portraits are but 
seldom signed (though one in the Wellesley collection 
bears the name of Mrs. Harrington, and those of 
the 1790 period which have a dark grey backing 
may safely be ascribed to Torond, 18 Wells Street). 
Later artists, as time grew scarcer, doubtless found 
it easier to snick the portraits out in black, but 
it cannot be denied that the old white-cut process 
gave a greater softness. The lower lady on pi. iv, 
who is shrined in a unique old oval pewter 
frame, has a roundness and a fullness of face which, 

71 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

achieved with such simplicity, has won the admira- 
tion of a dozen artists. More than one stubbornly 
refuse to rank a Miers or a Mrs. Beetham above a 
silhouette of such fine economy. Who shall decide ? 
It is the old, old fight luxurious charm v. classical 
restraint, and I will not be referee. 

In any case, these white hollow-cuts were possibly 
thought freakish at first by advocates of Silhouette 
as a mere shadow, often full-sized, cut from the black 
paper : and in quite early days there had been other 
variants. In Mr. Wellesley's collection there is a 
convex glass that bears the head of George III in 
black, and then behind it, in faint grey, his consort's, 
very much as one might see them on a coin (pi. xii). 
Another George III, presented to me by my friend 
and fellow-collector, Mr. John Lane, is cut normally 
in black, full-length ; but there is a clear mark at the 
spot where his chest has once borne a spangled decora- 
tion. More curious than either is a specimen once in 
the famous Montague Guest collection and now owned 
by Mrs. Weguelin. This is inscribed in faint pencil, 
barely legible : " Silhouette taken at Weimar in 
1776-7 of Mdlle. Thun (?Thier) and of the society 
that met at her house, amongst whom were Sir H. 
Dalrymple, Sir Robert Keith, the Earl of Pembroke, 

72 




GEORGE III. & QUEEN CHARLOTTE 
Painted on glass, probably by Charles (in the possession of Francis Wellesley, Esq.) 



DECADENCE 



and General Harrison." The " society " was clearly 
taken each side of a table : nine heads in all, five 
upon one side and four on the other. Of these the 
front two, a man and a woman, are "painted in black on 
a sheet of paper, whilst those behind are in a grey that 
intensifies to black only at the actual outline. These 
heads, that float bodiless in air like some dream- 
creatures, are cleverly drawn, but not too cleverly 
for any amateur of the days before Bridge ousted all 
the talents or turned them to professions. The nine 
members of this select society were, in fact, obviously 
painted by the tenth. Was this tenth person a 
ninth man (so to speak), or was it possibly just one 
lady to redeem Mdlle. Thun (? Thier) from the charge 
of a reckless social extravagance ? 

Families, again, were sometimes taken at one time, 
though not in the grotesque way fashionable later. 
One of my earliest finds, when I first fared out from 
my Oxford rooms in the long quest for silhouettes, 
was a delicious quintette upon glass : father, mother, 
and three children, taken just after 1800 and probably 
by Rought of Oxford. They were a pleasant family 
but on such convex glass that daily I died deaths in 
fear of careless friends or housemaids, for what more 
terrible remorse for any man thaiiu to have broken a 

73 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

treasure so intimate and gentle after survival of a 
century ? At last I sold it, thoroughly unnerved, and 
lately saw the Happy Family a horrible regret to 
me radiant as ever on its bulging glass in Mr. Welles- 
ley's collection. . . . 

All these variations there were in early specimens, 
but rare, and on the whole, Silhouette kept itself 
clean till somewhere round the twenties, as the most 
simple and yet not least effective of the arts. There 
were those who cut profiles, those who painted them 
on chalk, glass, ivory, or card, a few who toyed with 
coloured coats or chairs ; but always they retained 
the base idea that, work as they might upon the 
frills and laces, the face should be a shadow-portrait, 
plainly represented in black or some properly dark 
colour. This rule was observed even by that bold 
and not quite happy rebel, Phelps, who painted 
silhouettes with coloured dresses in chalk before 
1790. 

Who has ever been content ? unless it were an 
animal. Philosophers, from the Greek tragedians 
down, point out that Man alone is never satisfied. 
The appetite appeased grows into a desire. Hunger 
paves the road to Gluttony, and through Comfort 
is the quick road from Need to Luxury. If Balaam's 

74 



DECADENCE 



donkey came to life again to-day, he would be happy 
with a thistle or two and his own old coat : Balaam, 
were he revived, would stand out for French cooking 
and a telephone. It is only a weak groping for excuse 
which makes Man call the donkey stupid, so that on 
the whole we may feel glad here to be just collectors, 
not philosophers, and pass happily along. 

Enough to say, then, that the nineteenth century 
was far from satisfied. This art, that had arrived 
with all the pomp of something hideously Greek, 
seemed cheap to a new generation, and altogether far 
too easy. The scissor-habit was so easily acquired : 
snick, snick, quickness half the battle (everybody who 
saw Granny practise is agreed on that), so why pay 
anyone to do it ? Every one, in fact, was doing it. 
The new toy had become a very ancient game. 
Simplicity and cheapness were good reasons for 
amateurs to try : the worst possible inducement for 
anyone to visit a professional. 

Thus the Professors, as they had now begun to be, 
were doubtless driven to a new attraction, and what 
more probable than gold ? 

Miers it was, or Field, so far as I can tell, who first 
began to add the gold as an accustomed thing. 
Certainly these two, with Frith and Herve", made the 

75 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

best use of it. Miers especially, as I have said in the 
last chapter, by leaving the face plain brown and 
painting upon chalk, managed to lose hardly any 
dignity by what was certainly a far from wise depart- 
ure ; and Field's work, during the time of partnership 
can scarcely de distinguished from that of his co- 
worker. Of those signed under the bust " Field, 
2 Strand," some are in the brown and gold style ; 
others, less successful, have black faces touched with 
some pigment that is more a yellow than a gold, and 
certainly depressing. Cheerfulness, upon the other 
hand, was a strong point with Herv farther down the 
street, at number 145. To his brown full-lengths he 
added gold of such a glow as to seem almost trans- 
parent, giving out light like Nijinsky's arms in " The 
Blue God." This shading he applied with rare 
discrimination, resisting the prevalent temptation 
towards overdoing it. By using it only upon one 
side of the body he gained a genuine effect of some one 
standing in a strong yellow light, and can probably 
claim first place among those who used gold-touching 
on the full-length portrait. Generally, but not 
always, a washed-in ground-work ended in a tree that 
topped the sitter's shoulder on the " lighted " side, 
and a solidly theatric gentleman who takes a pose 

76 




CUT SILHOUETTE. GOLD-TINTED 
By Herve (about 1830). 



DECADENCE 



thus in one specimen stands in another before a curtain 
which more fittingly supplants the tree. Herve often 
stamped his portraits, back or front, with his name 
and address, but I have not yet found a dated speci- 
men. Young men, however, with hats like city 
chimney-pots and pulled-in waists to counteract a 
thrust -out chin (pi. xiii), reduce the date with some- 
thing very much like certainty to 1830. Upon a 
slightly later head-and-shoulder portrait of a girl, in 
dark grey touched with black, the legend runs : 
44 Herve Artist, 172 Oxford Street and 248 Regent 
Street," so that I hope he had prospered. F. Frith, 
the last of this quartette which managed to use gilt 
without vulgarity, apparently is in the small band of 
provincials who meeting with Success have not been 
drawn by her to London. At any rate, I have not 
come across a specimen as yet that gives him a town 
gallery. One, very lavish in its gilt, is signed in full 
upon the ground-work, " F. Frith, Dover, Kent," 
and dated "1825." The 2, however, has been 
tampered with by some one who desired to own or 
sell ? a silhouette of Wellington, as which it was 
reported to me by a trustful dealer. Considered 
from the aspect of technique, it shows one very in- 
teresting feature. The white band that goes across 

77 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

the soldier's chest is represented by a broad cut 
through his body from epaulette to thigh. The metal 
clasp (I speak as a fool) is thus painted on the actual 
card, though sword-hilt and scarf, cut from the paper, 
bridge this ruthless gash. It is certainly a quite 
original device and possibly justified by its success. 
More conventional and no less charming is the speci- 
men which I have named " The Girl with the 
Bonnet " (pi. xiv). Frith in this case has merely cut 
an ordinary silhouette and then embellished it with 
gold-work of amazing fineness. A little softness has 
been gained for hair and lace by a few touches of 
brush-work upon the background, a trick probably 
unjustifiable by any strict canons drawn up for the art 
of Silhouette. Certainly, however, this little lady 
with her ringlets, her hat held shyly like a flower- 
basket, and those decorous trousers, stands trium- 
phantly before her sundial to vindicate in innocence 
the shocking proposition that decadence can have 
its charm. She may not be pure silhouette, but 
she is an unqualified delight and we will throw no 
stones at her creator. 

Of another profilist who cut portraits from the 
twenties onwards it is less easy to say pleasant things. 
Master Hubard, I fear, was of those luckless artists 

78 





THE GIRL WITH THE BONNET 
Cut and gold-tinted by Frith, Dover. 



who win a reputation during life, only to lose it 
shortly after death. The Londoners of his day loved 
him. At first an infant phenomenon, he soon grew up 
into a Gallery. The multitudinous examples extant 
prove it was the thing to have your profile taken 
at the Hubard Gallery. Above all, he took school- 
boys, squeezing their faces to shrew-like minuteness 
and topping them with an enormous cap. Those 
were the Spartan days, before a home revolved 
naturally around its youngest inmate, and one may 
imagine that a visit to the gallery was not unmixed 
delight. " What a pity," mothers would say, intent 
upon the current aim of Putting Boys into Their 
Proper Places, "that you are not clever like that 
gentlemanly and industrious little fellow." 

Hubard was of his age and his age loved him dearly, 
both in London and New York. Thousands of little 
boyish heads, and hardly fewer full-length portraits, 
survive to prove his popularity. Mainly they are cut 
in plain black, but not a few of the ladies are elaborately 
gilt, and a few even venture on to white and blue 
One, of a K.G. unknown, shows the red uniform of an 
anaemic hue under a gold beard. Perhaps the kindest 
things to say of Hubard are that he was cheap and 
terribly unequal. He advertised " a strikingly correct 

79 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

likeness with a frame and glass for one shilling ..." 
and as proof that he could hit off a good portrait one 
need only look at the young dandy on pi. xv. This 
is a firm piece of work, equal to Edouart except in its 
flat treatment of the hair, and full of character. The 
stick is painted, otherwise it is pure silhouette beyond 
a doubt or cavil. Had the boy- wonder kept himself 
straitly to this less flowery path, he might have been 
accounted worthier of his distinguished, nay his 
Royal, patrons. 

Indeed, however, looking further afield, one may 
admire in wonder his restraint or that of J. Gapp, 
doggedly cutting plain black profiles at his tower on 
the Chain Pier at Brighton. They were not gems of 
art ; anatomically they admitted criticism ; but they 
made a sincere attempt at holding up the old tradi- 
tions. True, offered one and sixpence extra, he 
would add the gold, but either he was not persuasive 
or his patrons poor, for all that I have seen are plain. 
In one a youth in a 'distinctly Edouart pose stands 
by a vase upon an outdoor terrace (a favourite spot 
with the great Frenchman, too), and I prefer the 
portrait of " James Rosier, Junr., 1827 " (pi. xv). 
Perhaps James, junior, was a vocalist, and certainly 
his pose results in a sad heaviness towards the feet, yet 

80 



' 




YOUNG BUCKS 
Cut (1) by Master Hubard & (2) by Gapp (1827.) 



DECADENCE 



there is firmness in the handling of his features and 
something original about the formula for showing 
buttons. This was a half-crown prudently laid out, 
and eighteenpence more might have spelt disaster. 

Meanwhile, all around these devotees of the real 
Silhouette who kept the lamp alight through the dark 
thirties, professionals and amateurs were glorying in 
outrage more astounding at each new adventure. 

It was a small enough thing to add gold eyebrows, 
gold lips, gold cheeks, to the already golden hair ; but 
that was only a beginning. Green, light or dark, for 
no reason to be gleaned from Nature's shadows, took 
the place of black or brown, whilst white was freely 
added to the gold. Foster, it has been seen, made 
bold experiments in colour, but usually with logic and 
good taste behind him. His imitators cared for none 
of these things, and so charming ladies of Victoria's era 
have come down to us with olive faces and gold 
ringlets : silhouette faces but gay-coloured gowns, 
black hands but gay-coloured faces ; or lapsing from 
the silhouette in nothing but their white silk stockings. 
One man of the sixties, duly cut from paper, stands 
before a background highly tropical in a grey suit and 
white shirt, sporting a gold seal, a red handkerchief, 
white hair (in parts), and a brick-coloured face. 

81 F 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

Only stock, boots, and hat are Iblack, so that one 
marvels why the portrait should be cut at all ; a 
silhouette by name but a bad miniature in fact. 

And yet and yet it does not do to dogmatize. 

Time and again, upon the verge of framing a stern 
canon : " The real art of the silhouette is in the pure 
black shade, and every one who adds a colour to it is, 
as Edouart laid down, a vulgar mountebank," I have 
had an accusing vision. I have seen those brown 
Fosters so full of humanity, the fine gold-work of 
Miers, Spornberg's red defiant glow, and above all, 
yes, let me now confess two young Victorians in 
yellow maple frame, filling the room about them with 
the gentle fragrance of their restful age. They sit, 
these sisters, unconcerned by any wish to vote, to 
smash, to burn ; giving no thought to any problem 
but for those of their small social circle ; totally 
absorbed in the new song-album that has come 
down to them from London. Some one has told 
them once that they are strikingly alike, and this has 
pleased the elder. . . . Their dress is similar, with just 
enough variety for their admirers. Flowers are on 
the table, blue and yellow can they be forget-me- 
nots ? whilst pen and albums lend an air of culture. 
Sweet creatures of soft profiles and delicious cork- 

82 



DECADENCE 



screws, for better or for worse their type has passed 
away : but here they are, by a profilist's art, better 
expressed for ever than in a score of tomes on the 
Victorian Age : (pi. xvi). 

This picture (for it is no less, if by no other right 
than its fine composition) bears a legend : " The 
Misses Awdry, Lund House, Near Milksham : 1844." 
I hope they later took another name, for here are 
grandmothers of whom a man might properly feel 
pride. 

Beaumont of Cheltenham, who painted them, 
perhaps went to Lund House upon the common basis 
of " Attendance Abroad Double." This, with his 
subject's charm, would then explain how he came to 
achieve a silhouette so far superior to his average 
bare-looking and stiff-cut production. 

But and here is my crux save for the beads and 
topmost album, there is no spot of black about it ! 
They are a harmony in browns, these sisters, with 
just a touch of white for laces and two dim-red albums. 
Their faces are cut with a master's firmness, the eye- 
lashes touched in upon a dark cream background. 
Dignity and restf ulness breathe in this whole portrait, 
which I would not change for fifty pure black 
Edouarts. 

83 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

What then of our canon ? A compromise, I fear. 
Perhaps we may arrive at it by saying that qud art 
(the don-like Latin tag gives me new courage) a 
silhouette should be no more than the pure shadow, 
anyhow as to the face, but that qud charming decora- 
tion there is no possible objection to a prudently 
selected colour. No doubt Edouart was terribly 
artistic by all abstract canons when he produced that 
stiff and frugal tea-party which adorns pi. xli ; but 
I'm afraid it languishes in a portfolio, whilst I pay 
daily homage to my dear brown ladies. Madame 
Dorotti, too, in Ebury Street, owns among her private 
treasures a delicious study in dark green and white 
of a girl with all her dainty laces shown in touches so 
light that her hair peeps through their transparency. 
This is signed " W. M. Young del, 1836." Perhaps it is 
the work of an accomplished amateur, for Silhouette 
was taught in the young ladies' seminaries, nor in 
those days did every one who found a latent talent 
leap gaily at once into the professional arena. In any 
case, amateur or not, this lady of the olive hue will 
serve to emphasize our needed subdivision : pure Art 
unadulterated Charm. 

And colour, after all, was but the least heresy 
attached to their black art not less by countless 

84 




THE MISSES AWDRY 
Cut and painted by Beaumont, in browns. 



DECADENCE 



itinerants than by innumerable amateurs. Paper or 
glass was not enough by now : silk, horn, wood, 
copper, glass were drawn into the use of Silhouette. 
Portraits duly cut in black were dressed elaborately 
with actual embroideries. Jewels and buttons were 
added recklessly in gold (sometimes, as with two 
owned by the Rev. Forster Brown, on glass). Novelty 
was even sought by cutting bodies off at that enormity 
of compromise, the three-quarter length. Coloured 
paper of every hue conceivable was tried. The early 
hollow-cut was revived and promptly robbed of all 
significance by gold-paint added to the black back- 
ground. Tumblers were made with Nelson or 
Wellington imbedded, a silver silhouette, inside the 
thick white glass. The old-time profile was combined 
with hair-work, laid on a mirror, gummed to a slab of 
chalk : anything purposeless to gratify the wish for 
Something New. Skeleton leaves were obviously, 
then, another form of background, or iridescent 
paper recalling the crackers of our youth. Often an 
older formula was tried and ruined. The beautiful 
old red-coat soldiers of the eighteenth century were 
thus sanction for young ladies all in colour save for a 
face apparently unwashed. In the same way that 
charming notion so prettily exploited by Charles or 

85 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE' 

Mrs. Beetham, the loved one's very shadow cast upon 
chalk placed behind, was turned into a horror by these 
later vandals. This was a full-length era head- 
and-shoulders was probably accounted cheap ! and 
so gloomy-trousered men or shapeless-bodied boys 
were painted thinly on protruding glass, and the proud 
owner told to hang the whole " not exceeding five 
feet from a side light." The result possibly can be 
imagined : certainly it shall not be portrayed. Mrs. 
Bromley-Taylor owns the most pleasing example of 
this misguided industry that I have met. A marine 
background, with rocks and lighthouse, lends interest 
to the customary full-length figure. This picture is 
inscribed " by J. Woodham from Milverton : AD nl - 
1825," but I cannot help feeling that some one has 
blundered as to the equally usual directions, for in this 
case they run, "To be placed upon a south or back 
light not exceeding five feet in height. ..." 

More original, if no less superfluous, was another 
device invented, I think, in the later twenties by some 
unwitting anticipator of Bertillon. The sitter placed 
his or her thumb into some thick creamy substance 
and made thumb-prints upon the inside of a convex 
glass. These were duly scraped away, except so 
much as made the face or sometimes the cap, collar, 

86 



DECADENCE 



dress, etc. ; and black was added to portray the 
rest, whilst one in the Wellesley collection has gold 
and mauve touches upon a blue thumb-printed base. 
The result seems to me more quaint than beautiful, 
but these silhouettes, entitled " Thumb-print," are 
greatly accounted by a few collectors. 

The next step was just as inevitable then as it now 
seems incredible. Silhouette, robbed of its old simple 
dignity, an art no longer, must become a trick. There 
had always been machines for taking profiles. Allu- 
sion has been made to these already, and on a stray 
page (from what old magazine, I wonder, of the 
twenties?) I have lately found this rather illuminating 
passage : " Next to this is a plain black profile, to 
which I can say, ' That's me? I took it into my head 
the other day to walk into a shop and suffer the 
machine, as they call it, to be passed over my visage ; 
and here I am quite black in the face, with a smart 
ebonized frame, and an inner gilt edge, all for four 
shillings ! What a depreciation of the fine arts, if 
indeed this can be said to belong to them ! " But 
in this passage, which throws an interesting light 
upon the price of those now precious ebonized black 
frames, the reference is to something in the nature 
of a long and flexible rod so contrived that one 

87 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

~~~~"~"~~ 

end of it transferred to paper the contour over which 

the other end was passed (Edouart speaks scornfully 
of the tickling caused by "a piece of wire"); and 
much the same, no doubt, was meant by J. P. 
Tussaud, who, a showman by hereditary right, drew 
London of the twenties to his wax-works with the 
vague announcement : " . . . has a machine by which 
he takes profile likenesses." Hervd equally boasts 
on a label to have " taken the likenesses of upwards of 
12,000 persons " by the use of Hankin's " patent 
machine." 

Quite a different contrivance, however, was upon 
the market before Victoria was Queen. Perhaps no 
clearer hint as to its nature can be given than by the 
following announcement, culled from the back of an 
apparently late Georgian profile : 

" Now Exhibiting, 
In Apartments over the shop of 

MR. LIDDELL, Shoe Maker, 

Corner of the Market Place, Hudders field. 

PROSOPOGRAPHUS, 

The Automaton- Artist. 

This splendid little figure possesses the extra- 
ordinary power of drawing by Mechanical 
88 



DECADENCE 



means the likeness of any Person that is placed 
before it in the short space of one Minute. 
It is hoped that the Inhabitants of Hudders- 
field will come forward with their usual spirit, 
to encourage a piece of ingenuity at once so 
novel and curious. 

A likeness in Black for one shilling, 
Coloured from 7s. 6d. upwards. 

Open from Ten till Eight." 

Here if ever, surely, is a use for the old tag : " Com- 
ment is superfluous." Indeed, the time is better spent 
in sadly throwing back the fancy to forty years before, 
when all the modish bucks and belles were swarming 
to the galleries of Charles, Rosenberg, or Mrs. Beetham. 
Art is long but popular caprice is short. Enough to 
say, for those who have no Greek, that this Prosopo- 
graphus, with the quite subtle tinge of magic in its 
sound, is nothing but a mongrel word to mean face- 
delineator : nor can I resist a vicious wonder what 
intervals exactly the "splendid little figure" needed 
for its meals. . . . 

Whether it is this particular automaton to which 
Sam Weller alluded in his historic love-letter "in 
much quicker time and brighter colours than ever a 
likeness was took by the profeel macheen . . . altho' 

89 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

it does finish a portrait and put the frame and glass on 
complete, with a hook at the end to hang it up by, 
and all in two minutes and a quarter " is a question 
that may be left to Mr. Matz and the Dickensians. 

By the side of this and kindred pieces of ingenuity 
(which I am utterly confident Huddersfield encouraged 
with its Usual Spirit), there is almost nothing to be said 
against the following : 

" PERFECT LIKENESSES. 
No. 4, Wells Street, Third door from Oxford Street. 

(By His Majesty's Special Appointment.) 
Jones' Reflecting Mirrors, at One Guinea each, for 
taking Likenesses in Profile or full Face : also, 
Landscapes and Views from Sea, &c. 
They are made on so easy a Plan, that a child of ten 
years of age cannot fail to take a perfect likeness 
with them . . . 

Perfect Likenesses taken in Miniature Profile at 
2s. 6d., and painted on Glass or Chrystals, in a 
stile of superior elegance, from 55. to ISs. each. 
Miniatures neatly painted from Three to Five and 

Ten Guineas each. 

N.B. Such who wish to see the effect of the above 
instrument pay One shilling each, which will be 
returned on purchasing of either the above 
instrument, or sitting for an Impression Plate 
Likeness." 

90 




A VICTORIAN YOUNG LADY 
Cut silhouette touched with white paint. 



DECADENCE 



This advertisement, found in a scrap-book, is un- 
luckily not dated, but its type and general appearance 
point to somewhere around 1825. 

By the thirties, in any case, Silhouette was nothing 
but a freak. Endless itinerants of little merit divided 
up the less sophisticated parts of the Homeland 
between them. F. W. Seville cleverly staked out a 
claim on Shrewsbury and the Midland schools, where 
he adorned prim-looking scholars with unconvincing 
gold. Others visited America. London probably 
had proved a little cold : all ready now, the fickle jade, 
for a more hideous darling, the daguerreotype. 
Silhouettes grew cheaper and more thick with gold. 
Sometimes, if left plain black, the lines and shadows 
were pushed out from behind, to form a high relief. 
Fuzzy-looking ladies pranced about on horses that 
nowadays would be condemned by the authorities. 
Line, form, massed effect : silly thoughts like that 
had vanished ! Everything was niggly, tortured. 
The highest praise remained for something new. 

At the British Museum, in the Mediaeval Room (for 
humour has no place in a museum), there may be found 
a piece of stone which bears a natural white profile 
on it. Black plaster has been added above to round 
off the skull and on it is inscribed : " O, my country ! " 

91 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

_ __^______^ ^ ^_ .^ ^_____ 

No doubt it is meant to be Mr. Pitt, but it would have 
been Chamberlain if he had only been invented. This 
freak-portrait, which is described as Lusus Naturae, 
seems to me the last comment upon Silhouette. The 
time had come now for aquarium or pier. Never 
had any art so swift a decadence. 

Yet did it fall maybe with its epoch ? Did it, 
like painting, find costume and atmosphere alike too 
ugly ? Did it only hide its dainty head until a fifth 
George brought back " Elegance and Taste " ? 

These questions are too deep for me, and I am 
prejudiced. I fling the horrors of my dear art into 
deep portfolios and hang its best work only on my 
walls. If I am asked for the Victorians, I point 
blatantly to the Exceptions : Beaumont's two 
sisters, the Foster soldier, Frith's girl with the bonnet, 
or another child who stands in an incredible costume 
with a sick-looking bird upon her index-finger. White 
ribbons, white stockings, and beautiful white drawers 
relieve a dress sombre otherwise beyond the wearer's 
years. She stands between two mountains and 
around her there hop other, less favourite, birds. Or 
maybe they are tufts of grass. . . . 

Well, well : she is very charming, and sometimes 
I wonder what Miers would have made of anyone 

92 



DECADENCE 



with such a bonnet (pi. xvii). One thing is certain, 
neither he nor any of the great profilists of 1790 would 
ever have attempted more than a mere head-and- 
shoulder. This full-length mania was no small 
portion of the Decadence. But what restraint or 
classicism could anyone expect in an age that wor- 
shipped Berlin wool-work and made a religion of 
antimacassars ? Let us be thankful, rather, that 
there are exceptions. 



93 



V 
BDOUART 



CHAPTER V 
EDOUART 

THINGS were not by any means so desperate as this 
with Silhouette, although the gold-work reigned 
supreme, when Augustin Amant Constance Fidele 
Edouart came, with almost managerial solemnity, 
upon the scene. Before his discovery in 1825 that 
he could take a profile, he had worked portraits in 
hair. He was assuredly therefore an artist, and he 
meant no one to forget it. He cut himself proudly 
adrift from all former practitioners of silhouette 
(a word imported by himself, though borrowed from 
Lavater), and set himself with confidence to the task 
of placing his art in its due position. It is only one 
among poor Edouart's countless tragedies that most 
of Silhouette's enormities were perpetrated after his 
renaissance. . . . 

Edouart needs understanding. It is lucky there- 
fore that he wrote a book. Had he written five we 
should have learnt no more about the man; for he 
who cried, " O that mine enemy would write a book," 

97 G 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

knew that before a second venture the art of self- 
concealment dawns. Edouart wrote only one, and 
it is a full revelation. The fellow struts, magnificent, 
complacent, through its hundred and sixteen small 
pages. Grievances, yes : he was not treated with a 
due respect by many : but what of that ? It was 
their ignorance ! He got his due from Royalty ! 
Edouart gave us the term silhouette, and never 
thought of the word swank. . . . 

He had got, in any case, the secret of being accepted 
very much at his own valuation. An ex-soldier of 
Napoleon, a refugee in a strange country, he yet 
claims that, when this great gift of Silhouette had 
been revealed to him, his first customer was no less 
than a Bishop. This was Dr. Magendie of Bangor. 
The sting, however, of this tale is in *the fact that 
forty copies of the silhouette were ordered at five 
shillings, and all the family was done as well, so 
that it is possible that Edouart, no less than human 
in his self-deceptions, forgot the earlier patrons of 
humbler origin or smaller orders. 

The book wherein Edouart unveils ingenuously his 
tragedies and triumphs is entitled " A Treatise on 
Silhouette Likenesses." Published in 1835 by Long- 
mans, it is now extremely scarce, partly no doubt 

98 




MR. REILLY (?), MAGDALEN COLLEGE, 1827. 

Cut by E louart 



EDOUART 



by reason of a small edition but also because it has 
been broken up by dealers or scrap-book compilers 
tempted with its many lithographs in silhouette by 
a Cork printer. Edouart, being of those who regard 
their title-page as a cheap advertising medium, 
describes himself as " Silhouettist to the French 
Royal Family and Patronized by His Royal 
Highness The Late Duke of Gloucester and the 
principal Nobility of England, Scotland, and 
Ireland. . . ." 

Edouart 's troubles concerned themselves partly with 
customers who were either dissatisfied with then- own 
faces or refused to pay. For one of these last, indeed, 
he retails with obvious pleasure how he devised a 
fitting punishment. Taking the unmistakable like- 
ness of this mean patron, he made it end, from the 
waist downwards, as a corkscrew. Adding a ring 
(all cut, of course) by which the top-hat hung on to 
a hook, he called the whole : 

PATENT SCREW FOR FIVE SHILLINGS 

and hung it in his window, for every one to see. This 
story he tells in a chapter gloomily entitled " Grievances 
and Miseries of Artists." 

A much greater tribulation, however, than this was 

99 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

the treatment received by the sensitive profilist 
from those with whom he came socially in contact. 
Feeling deeply that his craft had been a despised 
one, he was at pains to show how different all other 
silhouettists were. These, by a charming Gallicism, 
he accuses of " Gothic taste," whilst he constantly 
refers to himself as an Artist and seldom grudges a 
big A. Nobody must think that he took up his art 
after a long search for some way to make money. 
No ! Dining with some friends, he criticized a much 
admired machine-cut silhouette. " Could he do 
better ? " the daughters of the house teasingly 
inquired. Spurred by their taunts to "a fit of moderate 
passion," he could, and did. He snipped a profile 
with " facility and exactness " from an old envelope, 
and blacked it from a candle-snuffer. In such a 
drawing-room way did Edouart fittingly embark 
upon his art, taking the hideous risk of being " cut 
from society " ; and he narrates how his " talent 
showed itself so strongly " that not only did he over- 
work, but even in his dreams " was cutting likenesses 
of great personages, Kings, Queens, etc." 

Ah ! in those words lie Edouart's real tragedy. 
His poor swollen head never quite recovered from 
royal patronage. It was in 1830 that he took the 

100 



EDOUART 



likenesses of Charles X and all his suite at Holyrood. 
Even an ex-king was too much for Edouart, and 
from that day nobody in England was quite polite 
enough. Imagine that he, Silhouettist to the French 
Royal Family, should be " placed on a level with the 
caravan man " or subjected to the insults of ordinary 
people who, attracted by the new word silhouette, 
came into his studio and flounced out saying, " Oh, 
they are all black shades ! " Conceive a mere land- 
lady refusing to receive " a man who does these 
common black shades " ! Picture to yourself the 
feelings of an artist, walking arm-in-arm with "friends 
who moved in circles of high life " and hearing the 
riff -raff remark, " Who can she be, that lady with 
the black shade man ? " . . . Edouart, a soldier 
and a gentleman, could not inflict such insults upon 
his acquaintance and began to walk alone, with the 
result that " persons of high rank in society " often 
accused him of an unseemly pride. 

But much worse was to come. 

Received at length in one town with all the pomp 
which he thought nothing but his due, Edouart was 
lent a house by the very governor of the castle, who 
hoped that the boards " might be strong enough 
for the exercise of his profession " and the crowds it 

101 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

*L 

would attract, urging him to practise only on the 
ground floor in mere prudence. Here was flattery 
indeed ! Edouart, one may see, was in the seventh 
heaven, thinking it a dream. Then read this with 
care, ye who think Juliet's silly accident to be real 
tragedy ! then the governor stripped oft his coat 
and suggested a preliminary practice. On relent- 
lessly the drama moves, until the governor, amazed, 
reads out the letter of introduction which had made 
him receive the profilist with such respect : " I 
recommend to your notice Monsieur Edouart, the 
famous Pugilist. ..." 

Enough ! Those with imagination can supply 
the rest. 

It may be said, however, that England, although 
obviously rated as an inartistic country well content 
with the profile-machine and very different from the 
French Royal Family, yet supported Edouart in 
gallant manner. No author, no actor, no divine, no 
soldier, too famous for his studio, whilst at Oxford 
and Cambridge, which he particularly favoured, the 
most learned dons did not disdain to have their 
profiles taken. One little bundle of Oxford Edouarts 
that has come down as a whole includes such names 
as Dr. Buckland the geologist, holding a prehistoric- 

102 




MR. LISTON IN HIS OWN CHARACTER 
Cut by Edouart. 



EDOUART 



seeming skull in hand ; Blanco White the theologian, 
seated in a chair ; the Rev. John Gutch, historian ; 
and Benjamin Parsons Symons, Vice-Chancellor of 
the University, all taken in the one year 1828. Nor 
was America less kind, for here too, when he trans- 
ferred his studio thither in 1839, the greatest of the 
land surged to his studio. Mrs. Nevill Jackson has 
lately had the pleasure of returning to the White 
House as a gift the silhouette of John Tyler, President 
of the United States, taken there by Edouart in 
1841. 

It might be thought, then, that Edouart would have 
been a contented man and not have girded so bitterly 
at the poor public or needed so terribly to be " upon 
his dignity." Perhaps he found a greater tolerance 
in the years after his book's publication. If not, 
one can only think there is a great truth hidden 
under that old nursery formula of Something to 
Cry for Presently. This man who so persistently 
had snivelled about details suddenly was struck 
down by a serious blow. 

Returning homeward in 1849, after ten triumphant 
years, bearing with him his precious folios, a duplicate 
of every portrait he had ever taken, he suffered 
shipwreck off the coast of Guernsey, an old man 

103 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

in his sixties, and lost all but a few of the countless 
specimens that were to be his monument for ever. 
Broken-hearted, he seems never to have practised 
any more. The rescued folios, fourteen in all, he 
gave to Frederica Lukis of Guernsey, who had been 
kind to him. He died, this tragic comedian, in 1861. 
Dickens would have loved him, and I sometimes 
think there is in his life a novel ready for some lesser 
hand. 

Edouart is the most easy of all profilists to " spot," 
because he was consistent to one method. He cut 
portraits in black paper. Apart from this, he usually 
signed and he was generous with labels. Sometimes, 
though not as a rule on his best specimens, he stamped 
the name and date with a die-stamp not very 
dignified for one who spelt art with a capital. On 
one in my possession he has written, after " Augn. 
Edouart fecit. 1829," the full instruction : " No. Ill 
Oxford Street, Entrance in Regent Circus." This, 
however, the portrait of an elderly gentleman standing, 
some way after Napoleon, on the sea-shore, is one 
glorified with a hand-painted background, and the 
artist probaoly would not here grudge a little extra 
trouble. Of these painted backgrounds, and their 
less expensive variant the lithographed, it is not easy 

104 



EDOUART 



to say much in praise artistically, though of course 
to the collector they are nice specimens, as rarer. 
This sea-shore specimen is probably the most success- 
ful, because it naturally involves a very low horizon. 
Indoor scenes are frankly horrible, and their looped 
curtains or sham-classic columns utterly ruin the 
silhouette's effect. It is odd that Edouart, so stern 
about gilt on the plain black shade, should have 
encouraged this astounding habit. In the course of 
his remarks upon the bronzing of costume or hair, 
which he nicely terms a harlequinade, " gold hair, 
coral ear-rings, blue necklaces, white frills, green 
dress," there occurs this passage : "It must be 
observed that the representation of a shade can only 
be executed by a shadow . . . consequently all 
other inward additions produce a contrary effect. . . . 
Every artist or real connoisseur will allow with me 
that when Nature is to be imitated, the least deviation 
from it destroys what is intended to be represented." 
Edouart undoubtedly was right as to the bronzing, 
but it has always seemed to me that these remarks 
might equally be used of his own painted back- 
grounds. A silhouette is ex hypothesi the shadow 
of a man seen with a strong light behind him. Edouart 
usually, though by no means always, arranged the 

105 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

background so that the figure stood against the 
skyline or an open window, but by his own canon as 
to Nature, one may fairly ask why in a room like 
that upon pi. xx humans and dogs should seem a 
dead-black shadow whilst walls and furniture remain 
light brown. The best effect is certainly obtained 
when he gummed the profile on a plain cream card, 
omitting the elaborate backgrounds which he describes 
as by " Artists, and I may say not inferior ones. ..." 

Edouart, moreover, cut full length. Certainly his 
labels offer " Profile Bust : Is.," but the figure was 
perhaps considered his own speciality, for I have 
only found two busts in my long silhouette-hunt and 
only fifty occur among the new-recovered folios. 
Indeed, on this point he is no less firm than about the 
bronzing. " The figure adds materially to the 
effect and combines with the outline of the face to 
render, as it were, a double likeness." No doubt the 
artist had an air, and I imagine that the scarcity of 
head and shoulder portraits may be largely due to the 
contempt with which he would receive an order for 
the shilling bust. " Of course, madam, if you do 
not wish to pay five shillings, but in my opinion the 
figure adds . . ." and so forth, by the book 1 

It may be questioned whether he was wise, for 
106 



EDOUART 



frankly anatomy is not quite his strongest point. 
Or would it be fairer to say that the shadow treat- 
ment will not brook foreshortening ? I own a truly 
hideous signed Edouart of 1837, a seated man of 
most chaotic shape, and even Mr. Connor, himself 
a portrait-painter, admitted to me that the hind leg of 
his beloved " Musician " is what the vet. would label 
gummy. It is possible that Edouart's chief attrac- 
tion to the full-length profile was in the fact that 
it had been largely ignored by his great predecessors. 
Certainly Rosenberg advertises full-length family 
pieces, but I never met a specimen. Torond alone, 
of the earlier profilists, seems to have loved the full- 
length : and it is educational to compare his musician 
(pi. xxix) with Edouart's (Frontispiece). Perhaps 
" Art and Accuracy " may sum up the contrast. 
Torond, indeed, was a master of decorative effect 
and each of his compositions is a separate delight. 

Where Edouart was quite supreme is in his sense 
of character. This would account for his success in 
studies of child-life (pi. xxiii). He had the first gift 
of a portraitist : he could portray and explain in a 
single illuminating moment. We know an Edouart 
subject as we know a Sargent : the soul is there no 
less than the mere shell. Edouart had a fine control 

107 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

of the scissors, but he had more than that, he had 
an eye for the important feature. None of his 
portraits, it may be, fall definitely beneath the head 
caricature, yet in many of them he good-humouredly 
betrays the human weakness under an expression. In 
his treatise there is a silhouette, " Checkmate," which 
but for its printed background might be ranked ideal. 
A genial old worthy, clinging still to the old-fashioned 
perruque and resting his gouty leg on a convenient 
footstool, leans back contentedly, a smile upon his 
lips, and helps himself to snuff. Opposite this 
self-complacent victor sits a younger man with very 
worried look, who hangs a listless, indecisive hand 
above the chess-board that nowhere shows a sign of 
hope. This is a fine thing. Equally good is the 
musician, happily absorbed in his own improvising 
(pi. i) or the young undergraduate (pi. xviii) superb 
in the calm confidence with which he holds his new 
cap out to a world full of possibilities and rests easily 
upon his beautifully shod feet. And almost better 
is the portrait of " Mr. Liston in his Own Character " 
(pi. xix), no doubt to distinguish it from one of the 
actor in his famous part Paul Pry : " I hope I 
don't intrude." Perhaps an expert might just cavil 
at the backmost leg, but the spectator's eye is caught 

108 




CQ 



EDOUART 



first by the masterly roundness of feature, the easy 
pose, the firm tackling of the hands, the whole 
portrait's wonderful convincing, life-like quality. 

Edouart was certainly unequal, but at his finest 
he is incomparably the best of those who literally 
cut profiles from paper in the nineteenth century. 
With the delicate artistry of Mrs. Beetham on glass 
or of Miers upon plaster he has no connection, and 
therefore one need not compare him with those great 
predecessors whom in his self-laudation he doggedly 
ignored. Enough to say that he soared far above 
his own contemporaries or any cutters who have yet 
come after. 

Besides portraits of chance callers, Edouart 
achieved some fancy cuttings the temptation of St. 
Anthony, the murderer, street scenes, &c. and also 
advertised profiles of famous characters. This item 
on his labels naturally explains the many duplicates 
that still exist of anyone so popular as Dr. Simeon of 
Cambridge, who was depicted in no less than ten 
attitudes, many of them in the pulpit with hand 
dramatically raised to emphasize a point. 

Edouart also did groups and was particularly 
proud of them. Here again he studiously ruled 
out all except the bad among his predecessors, and 

109 



THE AR# OF SILHOUETTE 

in his treatise gives a burlesque cutting of a " Family 
in a Row," intended to sum up the group-work of 
profilists before he himself arrived with his big A. 
This cutting, dwindling in size from papa to the dog 
(called Bijou), is certainly amusing but means less 
than nothing. No doubt such horrors were per- 
petrated daily in Edouart's own time, but profilists 
of forty years before had taken groups that make his 
stiff collections look like something by a feeble 
amateur. That glorious Burney family of Mr. 
Wellesley's, the family of Mrs. Wyatt's, how graceful 
these and a score more appear beside those stilted 
" natural " groups of which poor Edouart was so 
intensely proud ! They sit beneath their curtains, 
unashamed, at table, nor do they pretend to be all in 
anything but the same plane. Edouart's people, a 
full dozen often, make the absurd claim that they are 
alive. They all indulge at once in ill-assorted pastimes. 
One sews, another plays diabolo, a third holds 
flowers ; the children romp with whip or hobby- 
horse ; and baby sleeps uncomfortably upon a 
pillow. Large ancestral portraits sometimes hang 
in silhouette on the brown-painted walls. It is all 
worrying, illogical, and ugly. 

No need here to go into the ground upon which 
110 



EDOUART 



Edouart based his claim to have revolutionized the 
group in Silhouette. The easiest, if also the unkindest, 
refutation of the fact itself will be to reproduce a 
group of the best period and also for let us be fair 
even when we are unkind one of the best Edouart 
groups that I have so far found. The specimen 
reproduced upon pi. xx is certainly far better than 
that which Edouart himself chooses to illustrate his 
high claims in the Treatise. That shows a wife and 
husband with six children, each of the last in a 
state of action near delirium. The two eldest play 
La Grace, the next forges across the room with his 
toy horse ; then one who stands upon a chair and 
holds a morsel for the dog to snatch ; the three-year- 
old is swinging her doll hectically ; lastly baby 
climbs its mother like a Matterhorn and snatches at 
her nose ; all this before a bleak window looped with 
a balloon-like curtain. Compared with this, my 
specimen has almost dignity. This is a superior 
home, and Edouart (one guesses) felt in his own 
element. One may imagine his small talk of even 
more distinguished sitters as he ordained, with all an 
artist's firmness, that the youngest daughter should 
hold a flower up towards her stern elder, equally 
cold to the dog's adoration. Why, this is 1831, only 

111 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

one year after that great visit to the French Royal 
Family 1 The very signature seems bolder. . . . 
In this amazingly large group, which measures two 
and a half feet across, the brown stool and table are 
cut out and gummed on to the card. Perhaps they 
ranked as " extra cutting," but, going back to 
Edouart's canon of Nature, it is possible to wonder 
why one piece of furniture should be in black shadow 
and another not. The fact is that this whole idea of 
the brown painted room was an abomination. With 
the figures themselves, as usual, Edouart has been 
successful. The swagger of the boy-rider is delightful, 
and one can hear the uncle, who believes in keeping a 
lad in his place, retort : " Ah ! but you should 
have seen me. . . ." The mother's hair and nose, 
I much regret to chronicle, have been touched up with 
paint, each in a manner to improve her looks, and 
here we must blame, not the stern scissor-loving 
Edouart, but that vanity inherent in his subjects 
which he so frequently laments. 

Yet when all that can be has been said in praise of 
each single figure, turn to the group upon pi. xxv, cut 
by an amateur about five years before Edouart's 
so-called renaissance, or to the beautifully formal 
tea-party upon pi. xxi. This perfect specimen by 

112 




Q 7 

Z '-B 

Ov 
v 

X- I* 

o H 

H 



I f 

O 

o .s 



- 



EDOUART 



Torond belongs to Mrs. Alec Tweedie, and others 
like it are in the collections of Mr. Wellesley and 
Mrs. Wyatt. This table formula, in fact, was one 
adopted by Mrs. Patience Wright and all the great 
profilists of the eighteenth century, Torond, Gonord, 
and that skilful amateur of the art, Goethe. Few, 
I think, who duly look on this picture and that can 
doubt that Edouart, however much he may have 
improved upon the Family-in-a-Row formula that 
he sets up as convenient skittles, fell very far indeed 
behind his great predecessors in handling of the group. 

Silhouette, in fact, is by its nature an art of 
convention, and just as this great cutter could not 
see that it would never express foreshortening in 
single figures, so did he fail to realize that it was not 
adapted to expressing various figures upon different 
planes. His efforts to show distant people by smaller 
size and a great sea of intervening carpet are seldom 
convincing and never artistic. 

Short of the seated-at-a-table formula, which 
surely is pleasant enough in its formality, it seems 
to me that if families must be taken together (and 
it appears they must) some other of the older methods 
is better adopted. I have already spoken of five little 
heads on a protruding glass. The same idea was some- 

113 H 



THE AR/T OF SILHOUETTE 

times used on paper, and a specimen by Adolphe of 
Brighton may be found on pi. xxiv. This is painted 
in a blue-green tint that he affected, good work in 
itself but of an even greater interest as document 
in favour of heredity. Poor dear things ; the 
girls especially, all doomed to papa's nose. I 
often wonder how they all fared in the fight 
with life. Mrs. Wyatt, who has a small collec- 
tion of profiles in her treasure-house of early 
glass near Worthing, owns a delightful and earlier 
family (ancestral I believe), each member set in a 
separate oval of the large brass-studded, papier 
mach6 old frame, like that which holds the family, 
probably by Field, on pi. xxviii. Another method, 
quainter if less beautiful, is seen in Mr. Wellesley's 
collection : parents and half a dozen children painted 
inside eight tiny glass bosses, waxed at the back and 
looking almost like round bullets in their wooden 
frame. 

Personally, at the risk of shocking those who set 
no limit to clan sentiment, I incline to think that more 
than two people never should be taken in one 
silhouette. The early groups at table are charming 
by very reason of their stiffness, and possibly excep- 
tion might be made in favour of a fancy subject. 

114 




A HAND-SCREEN (xviii Century.) 



- 



EDOUART 



Among my dearest treasures are, in fact, two 
eighteenth-century screens painted with delicious 
caricatures of beaux, belles, and beldams at a 
dance and musicale respectively. Here I would have 
not one figure less, and though a great deal has been 
lost in reproduction, I cannot resist one of them, 
pi. xxii, as proof of how delightfully a mass of figures 
may be used without, like Edouart, attempting 
the impossible : Reality. Equally, of later date, I 
saw once in a shop the most colossal silhouette, all 
gilt and brown, of probably the forties. A race- 
course scene, with horses, jockeys, stewards, nota- 
bilities, a perfect gem of its preposterous own kind, 
and on its way to Germany. Poor England, all that 
is worst in her was made in Germany, and all that 
was best is swiftly making there ! Paris, Germany, 
and the United States are quickly draining England 
of its Georgian treasure, and soon I do not doubt 
the day of the Victorians will come. 

But I digress. . . . 

Perhaps, before this lengthy chapter ends, some 
mention should be made of the duets that strengthen 
me in my heresy expressed. First, then, such 
eighteenth-century delights as that which appears 
in Lavater, or one of the same period belonging 

115 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

to Major-General D'Oyly Snow : Sir Thomas D'Oyly 
seated at a table lecturing his son who stands, 
a candle set between them, underneath a formal 
curtain. Then that of Beaumont on pi. xvi, to 
which I have paid a full tribute in the proper place, 
or a quaint group by Driscoll, before a painted 
Dublin background, of a patrician who gives alms to 
an old Jewish beggar with a dejected hound. And 
lastly let the catalogue end with Edouart's tea-party, 
dated 1826, and taken at 4 Colonnade, Cheltenham. 
It may be said of Edouarts, in a catch-phrase, the 
earlier the better ; yet though this is among his 
earliest, I am afraid its composition will not bear 
comparison with the Sisters by Beaumont, one of those 
profilists whose coloured work he so bitterly labelled 
with the fine word " bigarrade." 

Poor Edouart ! A man so terribly aware of slights, 
despite the habit de toile cirte of which he boasts, should 
have adopted almost any other trade, or even stuck 
to his hair portraits. 

His was in many ways a tragic life, although its 
sadness was as frequently home-made, but the last 
act in his one authentic tragedy, the loss of his 
precious folios, unrolled itself, oddly enough, but 
lately. Mention has been made of a Lukis family in 

116 



EDOUART 



Guernsey that gave hospitality to the poor ship- 
wrecked profilist, as of a Frederica Lukis to whom 
he gratefully presented such duplicates as had been 
rescued from the sea. Nobody more remote than a 
son of this Frederica suddenly appeared upon the 
scene from Guernsey, like some magician gifted 
with a time-machine, bearing with him or offering 
to bring the fourteen long-lost folios ! This treasure 
Mrs. Nevill Jackson was lucky enough to secure. 
Over five thousand British portraits, taken chiefly 
in Bath, Cheltenham, and Scotland, with scarcely 
fewer taken in America, are here found dated, named, 
and sometimes with an odd detail as to the sitter's 
height or weight. In each case also there is a note 
as to the place in which the portrait had been taken. 
Through the kindness of Mrs. Nevill Jackson I am 
able to reproduce a sample page (pi. xxiii). These 
are the "Daughters of General Sir Ralph Darling, 
8th Sept., 1836," and are named from left to right 
" Miss Agnes Darling, 3 years : 3 ft. 2 in. Miss 
Caroline Darling, 7 years : 4 ft. Miss Amelia 
Darling, 4| years : 3 ft. 6 in." It was Edouart's 
boast, by the way, that all his portraits after 1827 
were true to military scale. 

So early as 1835 he speaks of his gallery as 

117 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

comprising above 50,000 likenesses ! Most profilists, 
it will be gathered from the chapter upon " Labels," 
professed to keep the original shades will time 
finally yield the treasure of Miers' duplicates ? but 
Edouart clearly possessed a genius for system. 
The name of each sitter was entered in five different 
places ! Not to be outdone, Mrs. Nevill Jackson 
has compiled an alphabetic list of the five thousand 
names found in these British folios, and slowly no 
doubt the portraits will filter back into the homes of 
their originals' descendants. This, one likes to 
think, will be as balm to the soul of too sensitive 
Edouart, which must have suffered agonies in those 
late Victorian days when silhouettes were being torn, 
burnt, thrown away on all sides and their frames used 
for Christmas Number presentation plates. So after 
all we may ring down the curtain on a happy ending. 



118 




C/) 

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J 

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Q 

UJ 

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VI 

CUPID AND 
SILHOUETTE 



CHAPTER VI 
CUPID AND SILHOUETTE 

SILHOUETTE should certainly have been called the Art 
of Love, had not Ovid long since turned that pleasant 
title to a baser use. 

For, after all, what product of man's handicraft 
should Cupid smile upon more naturally ? Hung in 
auspicious pairs, they breathe romance, these little 
shadows, and the sound of long-past but undying kisses 
rises from them in the night. Businesslike collectors 
weed out ruthlessly : *' a pair of Fosters yes, the man 
bad but the girl worth keeping " : shattering for ever 
who shall say what ancient vows or separating may-be 
young hearts which a cruel world had joined but 
once upon a secret visit to the profilist's. These 
are no chance pairs that come down to us nor are 
they always man and wife. They are as often 
Cupid's gage ; and who are we to separate the two ? 
The lover of his treasures can almost hear departing 
visitors remark : " What lovely things ! yes, but one 
or two terribly unworthy ! " And yet yet he 

121 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

remembers where he bought it, with what joy he 
brought it proudly home, what happy days cling to 
its ancient frame ; yet he remembers it has hung 
for who shall say how long fronting that other shadow 
upon which the profilist bestowed such better art. . . . 
No ! if I see connoisseurs whose specimens are all 
first class, I give whole-heartedly my admiration, 
but I keep back my trust. They are not men, and 
I dislike machines. 

On, on, before I horrify with yet more painful tales 
of soldiers and young damsels, swept on to tacks 
opposite by a collector's whim, joined by no passion 
of their earthly lives, yet linked so long in shadow- 
land that the collector must not break asunder. . . . 
These be the harrowing rewards of such as truly love 
the shadows of dear people turned to dust ; most 
intimate, most sentimental, of all symbols brought 
down by the flood of time. Pass by with a sigh of 
pity, reflecting each on his own beautiful delusions. 

Cupid was present, so the old prints show, when the 
first Grecian invented silhouette by tracing on a 
wall the shadow of his dear one : and Cupid has been 
present ever since. Adolphe, indeed, who came 
from France to Brighton with his art, printed a long 
rambling poem on his labels, entitled "The Origin 

122 




A FAMILY 
Painted on one card by Adolphe, of Brighton. 



CUPID AND SILHOUETTE 

of Profiles." Apart from a passionate lyricism, its 
chief point is an odd lack of full stops, so that for 
my purpose it will be enough to quote the opening 
words : 

" 'Twas Love, 'twas all-inspiring Love. . . ." 

This was a fact that those who cut fancy subjects 
never had far from their minds. One of my earliest 
specimens shows a large, white heart filled with 
formal decoration ; and underneath a white-cut 
lion which submits with natural boredom to be 
garlanded by Cupids I find the following quotation : 

" Love vaunts his universal Sway. 
Earth, Sea, and Air his Pow*r obey. 
Lord of the Lion Heart he reigns 
And leads him hound in rosy Chains, 
Meek as the Slave, with humblest Duty 
To crouch before the Feet of Beauty." 

This is, no doubt, an amateur attempt, and here 
Cupid is more at home than with the busy profilists 
intent on their five shillings. To the methodical 
collector amateurs are no more than a bugbear ; 
they seldom sign, and if they do it is confusing ; 
but after all, professionals are only amateurs accepting 
money and much of the best in all art has been 

128 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

achieved for love. Mrs. Leigh Hunt cut some 
delightful portraits in white paper ; Lane Kelfe of 
Bath, who painted a few charming silhouettes (pi. v), 
was probably not a professional ; and I have lately 
been allowed by the kindness of a descendant to see 
a dozen profiles by John Philip, who took them in 
Soho before 1793, where he died at the early age of 
twenty-six. It may be said of these that they would 
disgrace no professional and, being unsigned, vastly 
puzzle any connoisseur. Painted for the most part 
on a reddened card, the faces are of a dead black, 
the hah* sometimes touched in silver-seeming pencil 
with all of Mrs. Beetham's fineness, and the whole 
portrait has a fine virility of touch. All these have 
under the bust an inked line parallel with the black 
mass ; a formula of recognition. This is work in 
the first rank, and would have been no whit improved 
if he had taken money. . . . 

Princess Elizabeth, George Ill's daughter, was 
another amateur of real distinction, with this ad- 
vantage that she was also an accomplished painter ; 
and it may be said of her that she specialized largely 
in Cupids of a delightful chunkiness and ending in a 
solid base, like that which forms the seemly Finis to 
this volume. Children were another favourite subject 

124 



CUPID AND SILHOUETTE 

with her, and in 1796 " The Birthday Gift or The 
Joy of a New Doll," was published. These pleasant 
stipple engravings, with no special resemblance to 
silhouette, were described as " from Papers cut by a 
Lady," but there was no secret made as to their 
authorship and they were dedicated to Princess 
Amelia. The publisher of the volume was Tomkins 
of Bond Street, who further to illustrate the thesis 
of this chapter had in the previous year issued 
" The Birth and Triumphs of Cupid, from Papers cut 
by Lady Dash wood." The late Lady Dorothy 
Nevill owned a priceless album of silhouettes cut or 
painted by the Princess, with many portraits of her 
Royal parents in it. 

It is, in fact, in albums that Cupid and amateurs 
alike may be found at their best. 

Whenever any wise collector sees or hears of a man 
mad about any other form of hobby than his own, 
he says to himself, " There, but for the grace of God 
knows what, go I " ; and so it is with me about 
scrap albums. Give me the space and I confess 
that I could revel in them. I should not limit my 
ambitions with such gems as those possessed by Mr. 
Wellesley, Lavater's own tome of heads in silhouette 
and the delicious Schatzmann book of portraits 

125 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

(1779-1789) within their printed borders ; I should 
not even stop short at such quaint libri amicorum 
as that of the Parry family in 1840, with languid 
ladies painted on settees by Beaumont ; I should not 
keep to books of merit, nor even bind myself to 
silhouette ; nothing at all should be too humble or 
too bad for me so long as it was individual, for if a 
man notoriously puts half his soul into a first novel, 
he sticks the whole of it into his scrap-book. 

But back to our shadows. . . . 

Of the fancy-subject albums, I have seen none more 
charming than that owned by the Honourable Miss 
Frances Talbot and made by a rustic kinswoman, 
Laura MacKenzie, ninety years ago. Fashions 
changed slow away from London, in those coach- 
carried days, and they are thus willowy people with 
all the charm of a century then past who comb their 
hair or bathe their babies in this splendid scrap-book. 
It is all cut -paper, several designs upon a page, and 
every possible domestic scene is represented that 
could give delight. In one, delightfully Gilbertian, 
the elders play quietly at chess, whilst in a corner 
the younger generation has a game of cards ! 
One of Miss MacKenzie's beautiful cuttings, to be 
recognized beyond mistake by furniture and faces 

126 



CUPID AND SILHOUETTE 

no less than by style of cutting, came to me by some 
devious route in a London shop, and it is reproduced 
upon plate xxv ; a little problem in categories for 
such as make distinction between silhouette groups 
and "cut-paper." But in her book, as always, Cupid 
is supreme. Again and again, beneath trees cut 
with masterly precision, he is at his games. There 
he is burning vast sackfuls of hearts in a great 
cauldron, or what need for ceremonial ? on a 
bonfire direct ; and when the charming damsel sits 
at an old-world table to write to her swain, Cupid 
is up at once upon the chair-back with his bow and 
shoots her down without remorse. 

Yet when I think of Cupid, Silhouette, and scrap- 
books, my mind leaps to a most piquant contrast : 
two which stand side by side in the small number 
of albums that I allow myself. 

One is of a glory I despair about setting upon 
paper. Genteelly small, not half a foot across, it 
has end-papers of a perfect mauve ; its chaste 
morocco cover, glorious scarlet elaborately tooled 
with gold, is by a binder " Opposite the Palace " ; 
one cutting only is gummed on to each alternate 
gilt-edged page ; and in it stands the coroneted 
bookplate of Marguerite, Countess of Blessington. 

127 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

No need to labour this. The point is clear. Imagine 
for yourselves the utterly polite ennui with which 
her ladyship's guests would survey her latest cuttings 
and pass it on indulgently with a just murmured, 
" Very pretty, dear. . . ." And pretty, too, they 
are ; cut in a dozen different colours, touched in 
cleverely with ink, and shaded off more than once 
towards the base with a dark water-colour. Dainty 
maidens saluted by wonderful gallants with cocked 
hat under arm ; rustic swains that dally under 
trees ; harlequin up to his merry pranks ; children, 
of course, at their work and play ; languid youths 
reclining at angles on Re'camier settees ; priceless 
officers mocking a no less immaculate civilian or 
bursting into a hot-blooded duel upon the next page 
to scenes of sugary domestic bliss : it is all very 
pretty, thoroughly accomplished, and above every- 
thing genteel. 

The other what a sad figure it cuts by com- 
parison ! Younger by many years, it yet looks old 
and gloomy in its stamped black cover with the one 
gold touch of " Album." The end-papers are of 
unconvincing yellow. There is no binder's name, 
no bookplate. But all this is redeemed, when one 
begins to turn the pages, for here is the love-epic of 

128 




o 

00 



-2 



H 



U 



CUPID AND SILHOUETTE 

an honest sailor. Silhouettes of David Thomson 
himself, his messmates on the good ship Griffon, but 
more especially of Mary : these are what fill the 
book and poems. 

David was a poet. True, he did other things. I 
am afraid he drank sometimes. He wrote indeed 
not a few poems on that subject. " But first, I 
should say to inspire me " (he writes in '41, when he 
was at the hot -blood age of twenty), " I took up a 
bumper of hot," and ends his poem, written in de- 
jection caused by absence, with this significant 
admission : 

" But not being much of a grumbler, 

I thought it was better to stop, 

So next time I took up the tumbler, 

I finished it every drop " 

an easy enough way of ending inconvenient in- 
spiration. Three years later, in any case, David is 
convinced it may be by his liver that drink was 
a mistake, and writes a lyric finely entitled " Wine 
Should be Used like Medicine." This is dated at 
sea, January '44 ; but one may see that David kept 
a broad mind still, for verse four of a March poem 
lays down about the teetotal convert like himself : 

129 I 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

" Besides, he gets so very thin, 

Though his appetite's prodigious, 
His bones come almost through his skin, 
And then he's so religious." 

It is, therefore, with a certain horror that we see 
his June verses to be entitled : " The Amusement of 
Drinking. ..." But I think there was no relapse, 
for this, the last reference to the topic, ends : 

" And if we don't our talents improve 

(If it's true wJiat the Bible tells us) 
Our souls will go at their next remove 
Wherever the Devil compels us." 

No, we can pass on with an easy mind to the idyll. 

Mary was a pretty girl, exactly his own age. She 
was, in fact, a very pretty girl ; many silhouettes 
bear witness to that fact, but more especially one 
touched with gold ; and the heart of David, himself 
no beauty, beat wisely true to her. At least, I 
think it did. Certainly there is a poem to Lucy, 
but of a venial nature. There is equally that other 
to a lady unnamed, who on his travels has asked 
for a poem and gets one which ends, " I think in 
reward of my pains you should certainly give me a 

180 



CUPID AND SILHOUETTE 

kiss." And yet more flagrantly in need of explana- 
tion are the lines to Elizabeth in 1830, Elizabeth 
whom he first met " Upon a fine autumnal eve," 
what mystic time " The moon was up, the sun 
retiring," out at Beaumont Hill : 

" Since that time I often in fancy behold 

The valley on which I there gazed with thee. 
I am almost sure that 1 hear thy voice 
And see thy lovely form beside me. ..." 

Well, sailors are notoriously licensed as to that, 
and after all, it is not till next year that he writes to 
Mary : 

" And in the visions of the night 
Thy form alone I see." 

Also a later David, revising the verses to Elizabeth, 
has recanted with his own hand or is it a forgery by 
Mary's ? and changed that word " lovely " to the 
less bard-like " dumpy." 

And after all, you must read this album back- 
wards, like a Chinee or woman, if you would get its 
proper ending ; for inside the front cover, opposite 
two profiles of the young lovers gazing in each other's 

131 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

eyes, there is written simply, yet who can guess with 
how much pride : 

" To Mary, 
from her Husband, 
D. Thomson." 



1*2 



VII 
LABELS 



CHAPTER VII 
LABELS 

LABELS may sound a dull and unprofitable subject, 
yet in them lies) great magic for the silhouette 
collector. 

Imagine for an instant parvis componere magna 
that the great artists or great miniaturists of the 
eighteenth century had placed behind their work a 
printed account of what they thought the chief 
merit of their peculiar styles ! Right or wrong (and 
seldom indeed is the artist a critic ... of his own 
creations), such an opinion would be valued above 
gold by any decent -thinking connoisseur. 

And this, in effect, is what was done by these dear, 
simple, enthusiasts in the new Art of Silhouette. Full 
of wondrous words to express the full mystery and 
importance of what arrived in England with all the 
decorous prestige of a classical accomplishment, they 
pressed into a few printed words delicious synopses 
of their skill, which have the rare though often 
advertised distinction of being both instructive and 

135 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

amusing. If few things could be more charming 
than Master Hubard, with his wooden-looking cut- 
outs, describing himself solemnly as " Papyrotomist," 
or Haines (of the Chain Pier) as a " Scissorgraphist," 
yet nothing at all could be more useful than that 
Rosenberg, that master of cold outline, should describe 
himself as deliberately working " in imitation of 
stone." That one phrase, which seems more and 
more inspired to anyone who studies the Bath 
artist's work, raises to a virtue the lack of soft- 
ness in it which easily might otherwise have seemed 
a vice. 

Moreover, even optimists have never denied the 
claim of this world to be wicked, and already there 
appear on all sides forgeries of an increasing merit. 
They are getting their eye set, these fakers ; the 
day of the rought cut-out will soon pass : specimens 
on chalk " by " Miers, on glass " by " Rosenberg, 
will trickle, I feel confident, ere long into the London 
shops. Already one great antique gallery has sent 
forth the pronouncement that no more specimens 
will be bought without labels. These little printed 
papers are going to become, in the new vogue of 
Silhouette, what " marks " have been in the old- 
china craze. They will be forged, no doubt, in time ; 

136 




A LADY, 
Painted on card by Mrs. Beetham. 



LABELS 

but cost apart, this is a bigger enterprise than 
skilful copying of a black head on chalk. Labels 
and old frames these are the fatal snags that lie 
in the poor forger's track ; and these must be no 
less the quarry set before all intelligent silhouette 
collectors. 

It is very well worth while, then, before proceed- 
ing to the later humours of the Label, to consider 
those used by the first great silhouettists and 
see, as preachers say, what can be learnt from 
them. 

First lesson of all, perhaps ; that as with curio- 
dealers, so it was with silhouettists. The most 
superior put least in their shop window. 

Mrs. Beetham was the very essence of superiority. 
No need to look further than her dainty ladies and 
ineffably genteel young men, the plain distinction 
of her rose-wood frames, the costly splendour of 
her gold and cream domed glasses, the decorous 
white chalk behind. Had she but lived in this era 
of hotels and cinemas, she must have called her 
portraits likenesses de luxe ! And as the last 
touch of superiority, desolating surely to her 
rivals, she placed upon her engraved label merely 
these words : 

137 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

" Profiles 

in 
Miniature 

by 
Mrs. Beetham, 

No. 27 

Fleet Street. 

1785." 

These severe words were engraved amid a wealth 
of flourishes recalling a different art, Calligraphy, 
and dots forecasting Beardsley. At the four corners 
are small heads in profile ; but on oval frames or 
actual miniatures these were naturally sacrificed by 
a ruthless snip from the scissors she no doubt 
despised. 

Unluckily, that " 1785 " must not encourage 
owners to believe they have the very date of their 
pet specimens : it merely marks the printing of her 
plate and occurs on all the labels I have ever found 
of Mrs. Beetham at the summit of her fame. 

Even the best of us, however, have our pasts ; and 
Mrs. Beetham, before she reached this glory of plaster 
and gilt glasses, plied a humbler trade with portraits 
painted upon card and even cut from paper. Three 

188 



LABELS 

specimens in my possession, two beaux and a belle, 
are delicately cut, ruffle and periwig in open-work ; 
the black is seemingly applied with soot on a white 
surface, to be gently handled ; details of hair or 
dress are touched in lightly with a pencil, scarcely 
to be noticed till the glass is removed ; whilst each 
bust ends in that jagged line to which I have already 
called attention in the more ambitious Beethams 
(pi. iv). Upon the back of one beau and the belle 
is a most curious label, too big alas ! for the small 
pear-wood oval, so that much of it is lost. Enough 
remains, however, to prove it as Mrs. Beetham's, and 
lest any doubt should linger as to whether back- 
boards and frames had not belonged to some quite 
different silhouettes, old Sol kindest of friends to 
the collectors and worst foe to the dark-loving 
faker burning his way patiently through the thin 
paper has left flawless profiles on the wooden 
backing. 

Behind these quite indubitable Beethams, then, 
is found this fragment of a label : 

(? By application, leagued with good nat(ural gifts ?) 
(MRS.) BEETHA(M). 

(has ena)bled herself to remedy a Dificulty, much 

139 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

lamented and) 
universally experienced, by 
PARENTS, LOVERS, AND FRIENDS, 
The former, assisted by her ART may see their off- 
spring in any part of the terraqueous Globe ; 
Nor can Death obliterate the Featuers from their 
fond Remembrance. 

LOVERS, the POETS have advanced, 
" Can waft a Sigh from Indus to the Pole." 
She will graitfy them with more substantial, though 

ideal 
(inter)course by placing the beloved Object to their 

view. 
FRIENDSHIP is truly valuable, was ever held a 

Max(im) 
They who deny it never tasted its delicious Fruit. 

or shed a Sympathizing Tear. 
. . . that was so ENDEARING, nay RAVISHING. . . 

. . . separations existed ..." 
MRS. BEETHAM will call into B (eing ?) . . . 
(C cetera, as the learned say, desunt : and not to 
be outdone in Classicism, I shall add : eheu !) 

140 



LABELS 

Here is a very different Mrs. Beetham from that 
austere lady who printed her new label in 1785 I 
These lines which but for their spelling recall the 
lyric grandeur of a world-famed fruit salt adver- 
tisement, no doubt mark a period before the day 
when Mrs. Beetham, woman and sentimentalist, 
merged herself into Mrs. Beetham, artist and mere 
painter of " Profiles in miniature. . . ." 

Rosenberg, whose classical restraint would certainly 
have led one to expect an equal reticence, was luckily 
(as I have said) far more confiding even in his prime, 
and his trade-label, found behind all the instances in 
my collection, is quite a work of art. On top the 
Royal Arms ; at bottom a scroll with emblems 
armorial and masonic ; and in the middle, framed 
within an oval wreathed by flowers : 

By Their Majesties' Authority. 

MR. ROSENBERG 
OF BATH 

PROFILE PAINTER 

To their Majesties and Royal Family, 
Begs leave to inform the Nobility and 
Gentry that he takes most striking like- 
141 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

nesses in Profile, which he Paints on Glass 
in imitation of Stone that will never fade. 

Time of sitting one Minute. 

Price from 7s. Qd. to l 1*. Qd. Family 

Pieces whole lengths in various Attitudes. 

N.B. Likenesses for Rings, Lockets, 

Trinkets, and Snuff Boxes." 

Time price varieties method and artistic aim 
Rosenberg is indeed the man for silhouette col- 
lectors ; and with it all there is no loss of dignity. 

Perhaps, of the bigger men, Miers allowed himself 
most freedom as to trumpet-blowing. Upon his 
Leeds label a rarity that gives a thrill indeed, when 
found, to the collector there appear, severely 
printed in an oval, these words : 

" Perfect likenefses in miniature profile 
taken by J. MIERS, LEEDS, and reduced 
on a plan entirely new, which preserves the 
most exact Symmetry and animated ex- 
prefsion of the Features much superior to 
any other method. Time of sitting one 
Minute. N.B. He keeps the original 
Shades, and can supply those he has once 
142 






FRAMED MINIATURES ON IVORY 
Signed, or labelled, 1 and 2 by Miers ; 3 by Mrs. Beetham. Actual size. 



LABELS 

taken with any number of Copies. Those 
who have shades by them may have them 
reduced to any size and drefsed in the present 
Taste." 

This final inducement to the unwilling middle- 
aged was also offered (be it noted) by a contemporary 
Liverpool artist, Mrs. Lightfoot, an artist very similar 
to Miers in method as in label : and was, indeed, 
more to be looked for from female subtlety. It is of 
interest to note the word "taken," coolly appro- 
priated later by photography from its defeated rival ; 
also the word " Shade," which I should like to see 
revived in place of the alien and unhistoric "Sil- 
houette." 

Beneath the oval there is seen this more modest 
postscript : 

" Orders (at any Time) addressed to him at LEEDS 
in Yorkshire, will be punctually dispatched." 

On a portrait of Burns' mother in the Wellesley 
collection, Miers' address is given as " Lowerhead 
Row, Leeds." Although this might seem to point 
to an earlier address, it marks more probably a date 
at which the profilist's fame had not spread even 
across his own native city. Later, one does not 

143 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

doubt, his thronged studio came to rank with the 
glories of Leeds. 

When Miers grew yet more famous and moved to 
London, he increased the time of sitting to three 
minutes and on the whole became less self-assertive, 
for on his later specimens he merely claims to execute 
" Likenesses in Profile in a style of superior excellence 
with unequalled accuracy, which convey the most 
forcible exprefsion and animated character even in 
the very minute size for Rings, Broaches, Lockets, 
&c. &c." (He is by now " Profile Painter And 
Jeweller," at 111 Strand, London, " opposite Exeter 
Change.") 

It must at the same time be admitted that, speak- 
ing broadly, the London Miers is not such fine work 
as the Leeds, if more elaborate and, in his later years, 
commonly adorned with gold. No doubt, like all 
silhouettists and some artists, he had, as his circle 
grew, to bring into his studio " shades " of another 
sort, and perhaps many a signed Miers (or anyhow 
many a labelled Miers) has little enough else to do 
with his own hand. On a fine woman's head, painted 
in black on chalk with charming softness in the hair 
and dress, framed with the pomp of a black and 
gold glass " a beautiful Miers," many an expert 

144 



LABELS 

has said, seeing it on my walls there is a label 
thus : 

" THOMAS LOVELL, 

from Mr. Miers, 
PROFILE-PAINTER, JEWELLER, AND MINIATURE 

FRAME MAKER, 

32 Bread Street, Cheapside, London, 
Engages to take Likenesses in Profile to 
reduce and copy old Shades or Sketches 
for Rings, Lockets, Frames, &c. &c. 
N.B. By preserving the original Draught 
he can supply Duplicates without an after 
Sitting. 

Mourning Rings and every article in the 
Jewellery line." 

This is the only Lovell label I have ever seen, nor 
does the name occur in Mrs. Jackson's list of sil- 
houettists, but it is utterly beyond dispute ; and how 
many shades by Lovell may not be masquerading 
still as Miers' ? Perhaps there were other assistants, 
too, who never blossomed out as being " from Mr. 
Miers." And soon he had taken into partner- 
ship, was proud to own it on his labels, Field, who 
when working alone, described himself on a minute 

145 K 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

oblong as merely : " Profile Painter, Jeweller, Seal 
Engraver, &c., No. 2 Strand, near Charing Cross," 
but added "To their Majesties, By Appointment." 
Field mainly worked in black and gold, or black and 
brown, frequently on card, and often signed under- 
neath the bust. Upon the death of Miers, he em- 
barked again, with a much fuller label that owed a 
little possibly to his late partner, though he reduced 
the time of sitting, which latterly had been five 
minutes, to the old mid-period three. 

It would be tedious to quote further. Charles 
had a label none too modest ; " the first profilist in 
England" but used it all too little. That of 
another silhouettist is sufficiently curious to claim 
some few lines more before I pass to the Victorian 
excesses. Upon the silhouette of a girl, the Honour- 
able C. Massy, roughly executed upon chalk, an oval 
label with a decorative design bears the words, 
amongst others : ". . . preserves ye most exact Sym- 
metry and animated Expref sion of ye Features superior 
to any other Method. . . . Reduces old Ones and 
drefses them in ye present TASTE. . . . Set in 
elegant gilt frames at 6s. Qd. only." 

This archaic adapter of Miers' label worked in a 
method largely similar, though with less delicacy, 

146 




A FAMILY, assigned to Field. 
(Showing the large papier-mache frame.) 



LABELS 

bore the name I. Thomason, and practised at 33 
Caple Street, Dublin. He was certainly working 
at an early date ; describes himself in a newspaper 
announcement of 1790 period as " from England " ; 
and it is idle by now to dispute whether he or Miers 
first evolved their common self-laudation. Rought 
of the Cornmarket, Oxford, another eighteenth- 
century exponent, backed his perruqued under- 
graduates (painted on glass in stern lines and a 
curiously deep black paint) with a design that would 
not have shamed Bartolozzi. Torond of 18 Wells 
Street boasted rightly to work " in the genteellest 
taste." This very happily expresses the gentle 
charm of several specimens that are among my dearest 
treasures. In fact, these earlier advertisements 
would form an interesting collection in themselves, 
for anybody heartless enough to turn the silhouettes 
face inward to the wall. . . . 

It was, however, the Victorians who reduced labels 
to their highest pitch and their lowest absurdity. 

Edouart, however puny he may look beside his 
great predecessors, towered above the small men of 
his day ; and in accordance with the shop-window 
canon his label has a certain dignified reserve, as 
thus : 

147 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

" Likenesses in Profile, Executed by Mons. 
EDOUART, Who begs to observe that his Like- 
nesses are produced by the Scissors alone, 
and are preferable to any taken by Machines, 
inasmuch as by the above method the expres- 
sion of the Passions, and peculiarities of 
Character, are brought into action, in a style 
which has not hitherto been attempted by 
any other artist. Numerous Proof Speci- 
mens may be seen at Mrs. Bays's, Trinity 
Street, Cambridge. 

Full length 5*. Qd. Ditto, children under 
8 years of age 8s. Qd. Profile Bust 2s. Qd. 

Attendance abroad, double, if not more 
than two Full Length Likenesses are 
taken. 

Any additional Cutting, as Instrument, 
Table, &c. &c. to be paid accordingly.'* 

The last item is instructive. With it in mind, one 
tends on looking round a wall of Edouarts to rate 
the all too often unnamed sitters by the amount of 
furniture around them. That young man, who 
always until now had been a favourite, stands forth 
in this new snobbish light as a mere tyro shivering 
upon life's bottom rung, and painfully unable to 

148 




MR. STERN AT THE SPINET 
Painted by Torond 



LABELS 

afford (tempt Edouart never so wisely) table or 
instrument or even his own hat in hand. . . . And 
that old gentleman, who always seemed so dull and 
podgy* gains fresh importance, for behold he sits 
(an extra, this we know from Edouart's own book) 
upon a chair with table, three books, top-hat, and 
a vase before him, whilst (down on your hams, ye 
snobs !) the curtained window, with seascape com- 
plete, is no less than hand-painted ! 

As to the cost of this last no label that I have yet 
found will throw any light. Other facts emerge 
from some : a bust was frequently one shilling only 
(possibly in poorer towns than Cambridge, or those 
with less gilt youth about), and duplicates were 
roughly at half-price ; but nowhere can one learn 
exactly how much Dives spent on his hand-painted 
room, what poor young Lazarus had saved by stand- 
ing chastely on a chill white card, or the precise 
social and financial position of those who vaunted 
themselves in a stiff lithographed apartment. 

On the back of a silhouette that shows a girl beside 
a large stone vase (no doubt an " instrument " and 
" paid accordingly," in the grim formula), and in 
front of a lithographed terrace with a river-prospect, 
there is a very interesting label. It was, in fact, 
for this that I bought the specimen, which is in 

149 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

Edouart's worst manner. This last fact has not 
deterred him from both signing and adding an 
imposing label in circular form. At top there stands 
in silhouette the Royal Arms, at bottom a portrait 
of the King with crown and olive-wreath, whilst up 
the two curves run extended scissors, which look at 
first sight much more like so many pairs of spectacles. 
Amid all this, at various angles, may be found : 

i 

*' Taken with scissors only. 
Silhouette likenesses under the Special Patronage 
of H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester. 
MONSIEUR EDOUART. 
Full Length Standing 5.0. Duplicates 3.0. 
do. Sitting 7.0. do. 4.0. 

Children under 8 years of age 3.6. do. 2.6. 
Busts 2.6. do. 1.6. 

Full lengths taken from busts, 
or description of absent or deceased persons. 
The likenesses taken in Five Minutes. 

Frames at Manufacturers' Prices. 
Orders sent, with Cash for the amount, Post 
Paid, to Mr. John Me. Rae, 155 Cheapside, 
London, Agent to Mons. E., will be attended 
to immediately." 

150 



LABELS 

And underneath the royal bust appears : " Sil- 
houettes of Celebrated Characters, 3s. each." This, 
I have said, is informative, as it explains the count- 
less duplicates of Dr. Simeon and other popular 
divines. Another sentence, " Taken with the scissors 
only," may be tardily commended to such dealers 
as have in their extensive showrooms painted or 
gilt specimens " by " Monsieur Edouart. ... It 
is to be remarked in passing that Edouart, having 
grown from Mons. to Monsieur and got a London 
agent, to say nothing of a royal patron, has sensibly 
increased his prices ; and the fact that the silhouette 
in front of all this pomp is feeble must not encourage 
to an easy cynicism. Let us pronounce it a coin- 
cidence ... or say that Edouart, like Rosenberg, 
was at his best with males ; the penalty in each case 
of a method so severe. 

Edouart probably obtained the highest fees at this 
time, although, of course, the earlier masters had 
received far more and even then got much less than 
their foreign rivals. 

Certainly Master Hubard, who was cutting in the 
twenties, made no extravagant demands, so far as 
money went. " A strikingly correct likeness," he 
assures his patrons, " with a frame and a glass, for 

151 



.THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

one shilling, can invariably be relied on at the 
Hubard Gallery." 

So far, so good ; but one must not place too much 
reliance on the later statements of this label, which 
is found behind a full-length portrait of James Lee, 
a middle-aged man in full riding kit ; possibly a 
coachman and offered to me (like many others) as a 
Wellington : 

"The curious and much admired Art of 
cutting out likenesses with common scissors 
(without drawing or machine) originated in 
this establishment in 1822. Master Hubard 
was the first youth known to possess the 
extraordinary talent of delineating Profile 
Likenesses with Scissors, and his works, con- 
sisting of Military, Architectural, and other 
subjects, are still considered the finest 
specimens of the Papyrotomic art. 

As the originator of this New and Curious 
Art, Master Hubard was in 1828 presented 
with an expensive silver Palette by the 
Glasgow Philosophical Society, and by that 
Society his Exhibition was first designated 
the HUBARD GALLERY. 
152 



LABELS 

As the 'Nursery of Extraordinary Ju- 
venile Talent,' the Hubard Gallery has since 
been universally known in all the principal 
towns in Gt. Britain, Ireland, the United 
States, and the Canadas." 

It would be presumptuous, no less than useless, 
to cross swords at this time of day with the Glasgow 
Philosophical Society (which anyhow had quite a 
pretty taste in names) ; but if Master Hubard 
originated cut-paper portraits in 1822, there does 
arise a quite philosophic doubt, which even the 
G.P.S. need not have despised, about explaining the 
countless earlier examples. Perhaps it was this 
feeling that caused the lad (who must soon have 
grown into a Company, one would suppose, so many 
specimens did he produce) to use this high-flown 
label seldom and be content with a mere stamp- 
relief, " taken at the Hubard Gallery," or sometimes 
even the two last words alone. This is a big drop 
from the earliest days of all where his silhouettes 
were " cut with common scissors without drawing 
or machine by the celebrated Little Boy, Master 
Hubard." 

Master Hubard's claim, however, was quite in 

153 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

accordance with the spirit of his age. Any sil- 
houettist who hid his light beneath a bushel might 
have got snugly underneath with it, himself as well, 
for all the good that he would do. Already the 
proud " artist " was sinking to a loud-voiced show- 
man. Soon his " Gallery " would be a draught- 
swept shanty on a pier. . . . 

Meanwhile, therefore, Skeolan must warn all and 
sundry that he was making a " short stay " ; 
announce that his profiles were " faithful, elegant, 
and characteristic " (this at the back of a most 
wooden group) ; " the best ever seen in Halifax " 
no less ; and drop only at the end to saying that 
" accuracy " would be guaranteed ; Haines must 
practise his " scissorgraphy " ; Gapp (also of the 
Chain Pier) make it obvious that he has " no con- 
nection with any other person," is in the " Third 
Tower,** and will there (apparently) do " Ladies and 
Gentlemen on Horseback, 7*. 6d.," " Single Horses, 
5*.,** or " Dogs, 1*. 6d.," all likenesses being " most 
wonderful *' ; whilst Liverpool, never to be left 
behind, produces Dempsey who reminds " Emi- 
grants, Travellers, and the Public," that the new 
penny postage " offers a safe and cheap method " of 
sending mementoes, which he is willing to supply on 

154 



LABELS 

terms the moderateness of which clearly causes him 
a pain to be worked off only by a crescendo of 
exclamation marks : " Likenesses in shade, 3d. t 
Bronzed, 6d. ! I Coloured, 1*. Qd.lll " Alas ! there 
is (without the exclamation marks) that most signifi- 
cant of notices : " And upwards " : a postscript still 
familiar on trays of curios " All at Five Shillings." 

Well, they are dead now, all these dear simple 
men ; nothing is left of them except the shadows 
that they cut and their pretentious claims ; but they 
all did their best, leaving behind them much that was 
curious or good, nothing no man of them that 
could do harm to anyone ; and may we other artists 
have no less to claim when we make up our labels 
for our life-time's judgment ! 



155 



VIII 
SOME COLLECTIONS 



CHAPTER VIII 
SOME COLLECTIONS 

IT is commonly admitted that whilst envy in itself 
must be ranged among the vices, it leads the way to 
enterprise, ambition, energy and other virtues. 
Perhaps therefore I am ethically justified in taking 
my public a brief tour around some of the most 
notable collections. 

Every one knows the State Rooms at Knole, that 
wonderful mansion which clutches greedily the 
wealth of a dozen museums in its old rambling 
galleries : peerless corridors of Jacobean furniture ; 
pictures by Lely, Reynolds, Gainsborough ; needle- 
work, carving, silver ; everything beautiful that 
the industrious past has handed down to its most 
favoured children : but few are possibly aware that 
in the great house's private wing there is one room 
devoted solely to a more modern art, the art of 
Silhouette. This is the home of Lady Sackville's 
own collection ; partly inherited, partly bought, 
partly given by kind or less appreciative friends. 

159 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

The room may be described as a harmony in black 
and white. Everywhere are silhouettes: pictures, 
ornaments, and china. On the jugs and basins is an 
effective pattern introducing medallion silhouettes, 
wherein I seemed to recognize Queen Alexandra, 
Lord and Lady Sackville themselves, together with 
two ancestresses, the Duchess of Bedford and 
Countess of Derby, whose profiles are adapted from 
authentic silhouettes now hanging on the walls. 
When the room is occupied by any visitor there is 
brought in a morning tea-service of the same unique 
design, whilst even paper-stand and blotter bear 
fine-cut subject silhouettes, which I think from their 
style may safely be attributed to Wilhelm Miiller. 
The whole room is an original idea superbly carried 
out. 

As to the collection proper, pressed for a single 
adjective I should describe it above all things as 
uncommon. By this I must not be read to mean that 
it is in any way a freak collection, but rather that 
whilst keeping to silhouettes of quality and value 
it yet steers free of all the most familiar names It 
may be that there are specimens by Mrs. Beetham, 
Rosenberg, and Miers; one Edouart I certainly 
remember ; but for the most part I recall it as a 

160 




LU 

5 

_i 
o 

C/J 



Q 
X 



u 
a, 
O 

a. 




SOME COLLECTIONS 

fascinating gallery of gems to which, off-hand, one 
would be hard pressed to set an artist's name. Some 
splendid specimens in black and gold stand gaily 
out in a sidelight, one signed " Coog, 1789," another 
showing a black portrait on gold set within a silver 
urn. This is unsigned but bears the legend, " Pensez 
a moi, 1812." A few Continental portraits in printed 
borders, one signed " fait par Joubert, peintre en 
miniature," catch the eye by their bold outlines. 
Others, English, attract no less by reason of their 
delicacy. Quite the most charming and unusual 
of these last is the large full-length portrait of " the 
last Lord Fauconberg." Beneath a looped curtain 
there sits reading a perruqued young man in uniform. 
Table, chair, ink-pot, everything is as perfect and 
distinguished as himself. His cocked hat lies before 
him on the table, and gazing up at him in helpless 
adoration is a depressed hound, apparently conscious 
of being the least well-bred thing in the tableau. 
This beautiful specimen of a full-length figure-study 
is signed by Wellings, who worked in England 
around 1785 but was not always so happy in his 
work as here. Specimens by Foster or Spornberg, 
even red-coat soldiers, however representative, lose 
a little of their glamour beside anything so beyond 

161 L 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

the usual as this or as the delicious advertisement 
of a silhouettist which hangs beside the bed. Three 
women and a man, their hair dressed in the style of 
somewhere around 1800, fill oval niches in a black 
square whereon is inscribed, " Profiles taken here 
at 2. 6. each." 

But it is time now to look at the china, a depart- 
ment in which Lady Sackville may rate her collection 
almost peerless. The pen of a china-expert would be 
needed to describe properly the vases, tea-cups, 
bowls, nor do these specimens fall strictly in my 
scope for they display another art. One thing, 
however, is of interest here : the freedom with 
which George III appears. George was of course 
a glutton for silhouette, and here we have him upon 
stately Worcester vases over a foot high, bearing 
such legends as "An honest man's the noblest work 
of God," and also upon smaller mugs with much 
less flowery mottoes. One of these, still seen about 
in shops, seems almost modern in its familiar laconism: 
" Happy Jubilee, 1809. ..." This is different indeed 
from the Shakespearian inscription underneath 
another portrait of his Majesty in Lady Sackville's 
silhouette room : 



162 



SOME COLLECTIONS 

" May he live, 

Longer than I have time to tell his Years ! 
Ever belov'd, and loving, may his rule be ! 
And when old Time shall lead him to his end, 
Goodness and he fill up one Monument ! " 

But far the most pleasant memorial to George III 
at Knole is in another place. Up in the George III 
room, hangs a curiously interesting silhouette of 
both the King and Queen. They face each other, 
white busts engraved on a small mirror. This is the 
work of " Mr. John Pye, apprentice, born 1753," and 
very fine it is. Sometimes, I think John Pye must 
wish that it might take its chance among the shadows 
in that other room. 

Mrs. Bromley Taylor is another collector who has, 
so to speak, concentrated upon Silhouette, but in her 
case it is a London drawing-room that is the shrine 
of shadows. Cleverly arranged, with smaller frames 
grouped round the long full -lengths, and one wall 
varying the scheme by beautiful Lucas wax-heads, 
the room is effective, individual, and suprisingly 
free from any suspicion of freakish eccentricity. 
Convincingly natural, it fills the first duty of any 
room by expressing the owner's personality. Mrs. 

163 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

Bromley Taylor is a real enthusiast on Silhouette 
and one of the pioneers in that collection. She 
has bought always more with the eye of an artist 
than with the sordid back-thought of a connoisseur, 
and if this has perhaps limited the value of her 
collection, it has probably increased its charm. 
Names and labels, what are they, to any normal mind, 
beside a grace of decoration ? Mrs. Bromley Taylor 
has some splendid specimens by Miers, Foster, and 
the other masters, but she has bought them for them- 
selves, not for the names they bear, and who shall say 
that she is wrong ? Certainly there is no name or 
label on the choicest of her miniatures, tiny profile 
heads of Napoleon and Josephine, black and gold on 
glass, surrounded by an ornamental border, but only 
a museum pedant could think worse of it for that. 

Personally, though I cannot deny the effectiveness 
and charm of these two black-and-white rooms, I 
confess that I best love my silhouettes in a stiff 
line above the mellow gold of an old mirror, or hung 
in a festoon round colour-print and pastel. Picture 
and silhouette both seem to gain new value from 
their contrast. And when as happens the ever- 
increasing profiles begin to give the walls an oddly 
chicken-pox appearance, here is an expedient that 

164 



SOME COLLECTIONS 

I believe original and know from my experience to 
be effective. Take an old mirror (for this is no less 
than a recipe) of the long, low-lying sort known as 
a three-decker one of those dim gold affairs, a 
large glass in the centre flanked by smaller glasses 
at the sides, with ever so respectable gilt balls beneath 
the overhanging eave and heartlessly remove the 
glasses. Now in their place fix three wood panels 
covered with velvet of a restful, ancient-seeming 
green. The thing sounds horrible, the desolation 
of Victorian abomination ; but when small silhouettes, 
especially the early ones in oval frames of brass, are 
hung within the panels tactfully, believe me the 
effect is charming. A centre-piece has come for the 
collection, and the walls meanwhile are ridded of 
their plague of spots. 

No such expedient can help the silhouette collector 
who works upon the scale of Mr. Francis Wellesley, 
but he has grappled happily with this aspect of his 
wonderful collection. True, in the drawing-room 
of his Surrey home there is a bulky chest full to its 
limit with specimens that other connoisseurs might 
struggle to possess, beautiful signed specimens in 
fine frames lumbered pell-mell without any order ; 
but those thought worthy to be shown are most 

165 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

effectively displayed. To the countless people who 
believe silhouettes to be black cut-paper portraits in 
Victorian frames, Mr. Wellesley's dining-room might 
prove an almost dangerous shock. Nothing more 
handsome, nothing finer, can well be imagined than 
the massed effect of black and gold in the silhouette 
trophies (for I can find no better word) that Mr. 
Wellesley has hung between his beautiful old oils. 
Nothing is admitted here but what its artist thought 
worthy of a gilt-glass setting. Specimens by Miers 
or by Mrs. Beetham, gems every one, are hung in 
great bunches that might be expected to kill their 
individual worth, but actually succeed in lending 
value to each other. Not in the whole room is there 
one cut silhouette, all is chalk or glass ; and here 
it was that the Victoria and Albert Museum made 
the greatest inroad when Mr. Wellesley promised 
lately to loan a part of this collection, which he and 
nis wife, equally enthusiastic, have gathered together 
from almost every part of Europe. 

Next door, in the smoking-room, silhouette holds 
its own amply with the wonderful early plumbago 
drawings, which are Mr. Wellesley's new hobby, 
even with his marvellous show of miniatures by all 
of the accepted masters ; but this is not surprising, 

166 




WILLIAM PITT, 1788 
In black and gold, on glass, by Fepk. 



(In the possession of Francis Wellesley, Esq.) 



SOME COLLECTIONS 

for here again are no late Georgians or Victorians, 
nothing but fine specimens by Rosenberg and his 
compeers, fine instances of all the Continental pro- 
filists, together with such curious examples as have 
already been referred to in these pages. This comes 
close indeed to being a room of pure silhouette, but 
it is restful to the eye as well as being a delight to 
the collector's soul. All over the house, indeed, one 
may find traces of the hobby, though Mr. Wellesley 
is of course a man by no means of one fixed idea. 
That a connoisseur of such world-famous taste should 
have relapsed on Silhouette is in itself indeed sufficient 
answer to those who sniff contempt at the whole art 
of shadows. Enough to say that Mr. Wellesley's 
most cherished Downman, his most priceless minia- 
ture, does not seem out of keeping with, or any way 
superior to, the choicest of his silhouettes. The 
whole place is an harmonious treasure-house. 

In the drawing-room no silhouettes are hung, so 
far as I remember, but china keeps up the tradition 
Worcester tributes to George similar to those at 
Knole ("More dear to his subjects," "Mercy and 
Truth preserve the King ") ; Meissen china in black, 
gold and blue ; Dresden, showing Goethe and his 
circle, black, gold, green, and blue ; Furstenburg 

167 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

plaques, kings and princesses dated 1786, surrounded 
by gold rims whilst in a glass-faced cabinet is 
arranged his gallery of jewelled miniatures in silhou- 
ette. Here, often in the rarest settings, you may 
see tiny gems by Mrs. Beetham, Rosenberg, and 
Miers ; double lockets breathing their romance ; 
patch-boxes with the shadow of their owner on them ; 
Smart the miniaturist painted by Mrs. Beetham ; 
curious red miniatures by Spornberg ; a Field on 
ivory, the smallest silhouette to be possibly imagined ; 
rings holding women with a coloured dress, and 
innumerable perfect specimens by continental artists. 
So far as connoisseurs go, " seldom comes glory till 
a man be dead.'* Mention silhouettes, the average 
dealer and most auction-goers will refer to the late 
Montague Guest and his historic sale at Christie's. 
But when the Francis Wellesley sale comes long 
hence may it be ! a sleepy world will rub its eyes to 
find that a greater connoisseur has all the while been 
in their midst. Mr. Wellesley cannot perhaps claim 
to have been among the first of silhouette collectors, 
but he has made himself the greatest. Almost all 
the Guest collection is at Westfield, and forms a very 
small part of a far greater whole. Mr. Wellesley, 
as though he felt that his silhouette collection had 

168 



SOME COLLEC T I O N S 

reached its zenith, has lately published a luxurious 
volume of "One Hundred Silhouette Portraits 
selected from the Collection of Francis Wellesley," 
with a preface by Weymer Mills. Only a hundred 
copies of this book, beautifully printed by the Uni- 
versity Press, Oxford, have been issued, and these 
will repose largely in the principal museums. No 
finer catalogue of silhouettes is ever likely to be 
published, and I think myself very fortunate indeed 
to be, by Mr. Wellesley's generous thought, the 
owner of what must always rank among the rarest of 
treasures for future silhouette-collectors, nor less to 
be allowed the use of some blocks from the catalogue. 

Lest the bare mention of so many gems beyond their 
reach should depress the neophytes no less than 
sauntering through a museum, I may possibly 
stretch the title of this chapter to include a few hints 
on What to Collect." 

Mr. Wellesley, be it said at once, is in the eighteenth 
century, or not much after. He scorns Victorians or 
late Georgians, and this is a field therefore easy of 
access to later or less favoured connoisseurs. 

One might in fact draw up a rising scale for any 
would-be silhouette collector. First and lowest 
would come (in the glorious vernacular) any old 

169 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

black thing. Those with no higher ambition should 
first, however, read the passage upon forgeries in a 
later chapter. 

Secondly, we should attack signed or labelled late 
Georgians and Victorians : Master Hubard, Frith, 
Field, Herv, Beaumont and their kidney ; with 
Edouart and Foster as our highest good. This 
should still be an easy collection for anyone with 
energy and time. 

Next in the rising scale would come eighteenth 
century unsigned. Here the perruque or piled 
head-dress would serve as our hall-mark. 

Lastly, for those of overpowering ambition, the 
eighteenth century, signed, labelled, and in the 
authentic frames. Miers, Rosenberg, Mrs. Beetham, 
Spornberg, Jorden, Charles, Thomason, and Hamlet 
such for the most part will be their narrow list of 
possibles, unless they branch out into the innumerable 
artists who worked in Germany, Russia, and France. 
Such, too, is the hard way that I have set myself in 
future. . 

Of course, however, in between these obvious 
grades we may find possible collections full of interest. 
Silhouette prints, for instance. A chapter, nay a book, 
could easily be written about these. Apart from 

170 




AN OFFICER OF THE GUARDS 



Painted on paper in Regimental Colours. 
(In the possession of Francis Wellesley, Esq.) 



SOME COLLECTIONS 

countless prints displaying a sure method of taking 
profiles, or all those flabby classic couples who 
illustrate in stipple the Origin of Silhouette, there are 
delightful frontispieces to innumerable volumes. 
Plump Edward Gibbon with his snuff-box (from 
his quarto edition, 1796); Dr. Keate with pupil- 
terrifying stride; naval captains who had suffered 
shipwreck ; above all, clergymen who published 
sermons such are but a few of those who accepted 
the profilists' offer to provide suitable frontispieces. 
Some of these are crude indeed and with delicious 
legends. Politicians, again, and popular preachers 
attained the fame of separate silhouette prints sold 
like mere broadsides. In the Victoria and Albert 
Museum Print Room may be seen prints of Lord 
Brougham (inscribed, " I see, sir, I see, it comes to 
this "), Earl Grey with Reform Bill on table before 
him, Lord John Russell and Daniel O'Connell, 
published by I. Bruce, who also issued a familiar print 
of Wellington, his legs up on a chair. Among frontis- 
pieces the palm must go to the beautiful portrait of 
Robert Burns by Miers, but the high-water mark 
of a purely silhouette-print collection would be in 
the fine aquatints issued by Colnaghi. An equestrian 
George III, a duplicate of which hangs fittingly in 

171 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

the Pavilion at Brighton, is inscribed : " This like- 
ness of the most excellent and venerable Majesty 
King George III, in the fiftieth year of his reign . . ." 
by Charles Rosenberg, engraved by Stadler, October 1, 
1810. It is, of course, in colours except for the face. 

Some of the best prints would be obtained from 
books, and anyone with a stern conscience might prefer 
to be a book-collector. Here the rarities would be 
Edouart's " Treatise," already described, and such 
kindred volumes as Barbara Anne Townshend's " Art 
of Cutting out Designs In Black Paper," of which 
Mr. Wellesley owns a copy. But others more within 
the general reach would be Konewka's " Midsummer 
Night's Dream " (Longmans, 1868) or " My Young 
Days " ; Albert Smith's " Rasperl " (issuing oddly 
from the Egyptian Hall); the books with frontis- 
pieces above mentioned ; and above all Lavater 
in the big quarto edition. The later octavo edition, 
published 1789, omits the big plate showing the 
method of taking profiles, as also the large full-length 
plates, which under initials hide (I believe) Madame 
de Stael and George Stubbs, R.A. These in them- 
selves are beautiful, but the comments of Lavater are 
still better. From the mere shadow he will dogmatize 
on anybody's soul. His kindly delineation of his own 

172 



SOME COLLECTIONS 

profile in particular must bring refreshment to the 
weariest mind, and as a sample of his quality about 
the charming silhouette of Mr. Stubbs, R.A., and a 
boy, he has these naive remarks : 

" Here we are presented with a man arrived at 
maturity and a most promising youth, though in 
silhouettes of the whole figure the effect of the light 
always injures the clearness and accuracy of the 
profile " (this would shock Edouart), " it will however 
without hesitation be admitted that the principal 
figure has a character of wisdom, and that the young 
man discovers hopeful dispositions. . . . The sil- 
houette of the grown man is much inferior to the 
object which it represents. . . . The youth . . . will 
have to combat with caprice and obstinacy. I love 
him nevertheless with all my soul, though I have 
never seen him and know nothing of him." 

Two pages earlier, having prophesied from the 
profile great things of another youth, whom I 
suspect to be his son, he ends : " If he disappoint 
that expectation, farewell to physiognomy." 

Lavater's " Physiognomy " is indeed a book that all 
silhouette collectors must possess. Apart from its 
generous supply of silhouettes Frederick of Prussia, 
the inevitable George, and many other men of note 

173 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

it holds a long and charming appreciation of the art 
from one competent to judge. 

A third possible collection (for space demands a 
bald economy of words and I am tempted to a chapter 
upon each) would be quite broadly " Paper-work." 
This ambitious heading would include those subject 
silhouettes that have been dealt with in another 
essay ; all such portraits as are actually cut, pin- 
prick pictures, and those fascinating boxfuls of 
rolled-paper that hang upon the wall and throw a 
ray out from the golden edges of their dim elaborate 
castles a field wide enough for even the most rabid 
buyer. 

Much more difficult would lie the path before a 
fourth collector, who should concentrate upon the 
black and gold glass pictures. First of all the 
portraits, French or English, profiles in the fullest 
sense, such as that of Pitt upon pi. xxxi, but then 
diverging to groups that still might be termed 
silhouettes (a long array of glorious gold students 
of astronomy against a dead-black background is 
signed with the name Belluti), and so on to ambitious 
subjects having no such possible pretension but 
getting nearer to the genus of glass picture. This 
collection, interesting and full of decorative merit, 

174 




FREDERICK OF PRUSSIA, 
Is. Johnson del. Alderton suff. 



(Size of original. 15-in. x 12.) 



SOME COLLECTIONS 

would involve departure from the patriotic stand- 
point of No Foreigners (always, of course, unless they 
worked in England !). Two of the finest I have 
found fierce hunting scenes with silver hares pursued 
by golden hawks against a leaden sky are signed by 
Rudolph, 1794. 

Lastly, for an age that worships the ugly and 
mistrusts prettiness as inartistic, there might be 
a freak collection ; the oddest items from all the 
above possible collections. Puzzle-prints, where 
silhouetted heads of Buonaparte and family are 
found in violets ; Victorian abominations with real 
clothes upon them ; toy-books where the figures 
move and leave shadows behind, the barrister a parrot 
but the girl a puss ; everything odd that could be 
bound up with a dainty art. Here the most pleasant 
items certainly would be such a " mixed " item as 
the fine portrait of Frederick the Great, pi. xxxiii, 
half silhouette and half calligraphy, or those shadow- 
cuts which only throw the silhouette when held 
between white paper and a concentrated light. Up 
to the present I have found nobody who could explain 
the origin or object of these ingenious precursors 
of the magic lantern. Lady Dorothy Nevill, who 
must always rank as the first collector of so-called 

175 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

cut -paper, had many fine examples of this curious 
art, some by Princess Elizabeth, daughter of George 
III, who had profile-mania in the blood. Lately 
in a bookshop I bought an early collection at one 
swoop ; many of them copied from such familiar 
prints as " Comedy " or " Tragedy " ; and the 
effect is quite incredible. No name or date is on 
them, but some of the portrait subjects (Napoleon, 
Britannia weeping over Princess Charlotte's tomb, 
George IV, Miss Stephens, Kean, Cooke, Mrs. Siddons, 
Mrs. Egerton as Meg, Mrs. Johnstone in Timour 
the Tartar, Erskine, Kitty Fisher) indicate the 
period sufficiently. The most astounding fact about 
these shadow-cuts is the effect of roundness which 
is given to a face or figure. Unhappily there seems 
no way of framing them to show their merits, nor 
does a reproduction of the original (pi. xxxiv) give 
any hint of the shadow's effect though it displays 
the amazing skill necessitated in the cutter. 

I have it in me to hope that, even if some are urged 
to start on shadow-cuts (they may see some of 
average quality in the Victoria and Albert print 
room, Townshend Bequest), no one may seriously start 
the freak collection. Notoriously, though, you never 
can be sure, and honesty bids me to say that any 

176 




THE PRINCE REGENT (GEO. IV.) 
Shadow or negative silhouette to be held between light and paper. 



SOME COLLECTIONS 

such collector will strike a rich lode in Smart of 
Frant, near Tonbridge Wells, who flourished around 
1820. Smart as a young man started tailor, but soon 
he was an "Artist"; cutter duly "to" a Royal 
Highness of velvet -clothed and leather-gaitered 
people on a painted background, the whole adorned 
with spangles and backed by a printed poem wherein 
he compared himself naturally enough with Rubens, 
Aristotle, and some more of the best people. 

There are many things even within the narrow 
radius of Shadow-art that nobody collects as yet. . . 

Messieurs, faites vos jeux ! 



177 M 



IX 
CUT PAPER" 



CHAPTER IX 
" CUT PAPER " 

OUR judicial humorists at sundry recent times 
have amused their public and gratified the Press by 
long and comical debates on " What is a sardine ? " 
and " What is swank ? " It is a pity that they did 
not, so to speak, finish with the S's and proceed to 
establish legally " What is a silhouette ? " 

I have met both dealers and collectors who placed 
under this elastic heading almost any side-face 
portrait, whether in wax, brass, or wood. I have 
equally met dealers and collectors who refused the 
name silhouette to any portrait that had not a dead- 
black face, ruling out Lea of Portsmouth or Foster 
of Derby. They suffer, I imagine, from that little 
knowledge which is so perilous, and fancy " sil- 
houette " to be the French root- word for shadow. 

Now, having met the information in line one of 
every article upon the subject, I had made a vow 
not to chronicle, unless allusively, the ancient fact 
that the name Silhouette derived itself, in mockery 

181 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

of meanness, from Etienne de Silhouette, French 
Minister of Finance in 1759. The art existed long 
before his time, and not till Edouart's day did the 
word " shade " or " profile " give place generally 
in England to the more ugly " silhouette." It 
therefore seems ridiculous to harp upon this accident 
of name. The derivation is, however, interesting 
because it seems to me that till the Courts decide, 
it is our best criterion. Silhouette, used as a word 
of scorn for everything cheap, fastened itself at last 
upon an art which only needed the simplest materials 
for its adequate fulfilment. Clearly, then, silhouette 
is not a term that can include such portraits as are 
modelled in wax or finely carved in wood. By its 
very origin, the word implies some effect gained with 
a rigid economy of means. 

However ill -adapted, therefore, it may seem to the 
fine-worked gems of Mrs. Beetham, it surely fits with 
admirable exactness those delicious efforts to state 
landscape in the terms of paper, to which purists 
would deny the term. Groups such as Edouart's 
admittedly are silhouettes ; add a tree or two and 
half a dozen cows hey, presto ! the thing has become 
" cut paper. ..." 1 That is the theory ; but 
though the last heading is convenient enough, I see 

182 



< / /' / / ' ^/ 

, , ,.< /, // r,,-//, ,'/ / ,. -,,.-,, //,,, 




IN MEMORIAM, REBH. WOODS, DIED 1795. 
Cut in blue paper and adorned with spangles. 



CUT PAPER 



no reason to regard cut paper as any more than just 
one kind of silhouette. 

It is, in fact, a very interesting kind and one 
oddly neglected till of late by most collectors. 
Perhaps one reason is that it lacks documents or 
signatures to an unusual degree, so that, however 
much a man might become a connoisseur, he could 
not ever hope to be an expert. This is an undoubted 
drawback, for even a collector of beer-bottle corks 
finds some part of his joy in the glad consciousness 
that he knows All About Them. 

Fancy designs were certainly cut by the professed 
silhouettists, as may be seen for instance from Gapp's 
label, but it is rare indeed that one finds a signed 
specimen of any early date ; never (to dogmatize 
from only a fourteen-year search) one that bears 
a label. Abroad, it is true, the science would be 
easier, for Frederick Hendriks has recorded a visit 
at Dusseldorf to Wilhelm Muller, whose goats perched 
on abrupt hills one could recognize from the examples 
given ; * there is Konewka whose illustrated edition 
of the Midsummer's Night's Dream is world famous ; 
Mrs. Nevill Jackson records the names of Karl 
Frohlich, Packeny of Vienna, Runge who cut flowers 
* The Queen, Dec. 29, 1906. 
188 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

that pleased Goethe ; whilst one of the most curious 
specimens in my collection a crude and early 
" Crucifixion " surrounded by dice, scourges, ladders, 
the crowing cock, and all other emblems, finely cut 
in black bears the cut inscription, " Verfertick L. 
Broc." In England, however, the would-be historian 
of cut -paper must wait, I think, until the day of 
Gapp or Hubard for his documents. The Hubard 
prodigy makes much play with cut paper in his 
elaborate advertisement and promises such varied 
fare as " Perspective Views, Architectural, Military, 
Sporting Pieces, Family Groups." It must (in the 
catchword of Master Hubard's age) be left to the 
ingenious reader to decide which heading covers the 
spirited design cut in blue paper by him that 
adorns plate xli. To me it suggests, more than any- 
thing, a crazy foreboding of the Russian ballet. 

The fact is that this was a polite accomplishment ; 
taught it would seem in the seminaries for young 
ladies and afterwards practised in mere love by the 
Georgian damsel, who had no hockey or vote-meetings 
and could not always be enjoying the delirious 
excitement of having her shade taken. These 
elaborate designs of an astounding fineness may be 
the work of amateurs no less than the delicious 

184 



CUT PAPER 



needlework of the same period. It was, in fact, 
clearly the smart thing to do. Reference has been 
made in another chapter to the cut paper album of 
Lady Blessington, whilst in the Victoria and Albert 
Museum print -room may be found some classic and 
domestic scenes inscribed, " Copied by Mrs. Wigston 
from Lady Templetown's designs." 

Sceptics, infused with the meaning of that poor 
submerged word " amateur " in this bridge-playing 
age, need only glance at pi. xxxv. Here, one would 
say, is work cut by a professional. The peacocks 
are of irreproachable design ; cupids and grapes 
alike are utterly beyond reproach ; the whole is 
beautifully cut in an effective dark blue paper. 
Silver and red adorn the coats-of-arms, as also the 
sexton and flight into Egypt, whilst the first colour 
gleams also from the latticed church window. 
Nothing could be finer, nothing more elaborate. 
Yet this is no more than a tribute to Rebeccah 
Woods by her heart-broken husband, for by the 
church-porch, underneath a weeping willow, there 
appears: "Reb h Woods, Died 7 Sep r - 1795, Aged 
37," and (always cut in the blue paper), these 
pathetic lines : 

185 

V 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

" Farewell, Dear Wife, thy lofs to us is great 
Who is left behind to mourn thy last retreat. 
A tender Wife and a Parent Dear 
We Daily found in you while living here. 
Her God hath cold her where She is shure to have 
A Blifs more Solid than her Self once gave." 

Education has improved notoriously, since 1795, 
even among the educated classes ; but there are 
symptoms both in spelling and in grammar which 
hint that this beautiful specimen may be the work 
of a quite common man. 

As to the manner of this handicraft, eye-witnesses 
agree that it was very swiftly done and in its 
rougher forms frequently with hands held under 
table. This, of course, was merely what we now 
call " swagger." Grannies and others who remember 
this talk with one consent of scissors : but there is 
little doubt that the fine earliest work much of it 
done in the monasteries was accomplished with a 
knife. Such incredible fineness could not be other- 
wise attained, and one specimen, of a saint with skull 
and cross reclining under trees, shows tiny birds 
disporting in a labyrinth of greenery that seems 
to leave no entry for the scissors. For those, how- 

186 



CUT PAPER 



ever, who value half an ounce of fact more than two 
tons of logic there is proof in a later cutting of 
religious nature. An oddly compounded border of 
royal and religious emblems, cut in white, surrounds 
the Lord's Prayer and this poem of a simple charm : 

" 'Tis religion that can give 
Sweetest pleasures whilst we live. 
'Tis Religion must supply 
Solid comfort when we die. 
After death its joys will be 
Lasting as eternity. 
Be living God our friend, 
Then our bliss shall Never end." 

These lines conclude with a flower and " John 
Momfroy, 1831," whilst the prayer ends definitely, 
"Amen. Cut with a Knife." This rules out 
argument. . . . 

It may, in fact, be said that the instrument used 
was a matter of caprice. Some curiously fine old 
cut -paper designs used to illustrate "The Sculptor 
Caught Napping " as recently as 1899 were produced 
by a combination of the methods. Jane E. Cook 
was the artist, and her descendant in a preface says : 
" To produce them white paper has been cut out with 

187 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

a pair of scissors, and the obvious necessity of adding 
essential details to the resulting outline was supplied 
by delicately marking the white paper with the fine 
point of a stiletto." A cameo-effect was thus 
obtained, and the designs make a fine contrast with 
plain black silhouettes that fill a corner of each page. 
Clearly this was the method used in a form of Vic- 
torian portrait-silhouette, where buttons, lace, creases, 
even hair and car-rings, are pushed out in relief upon 
the black. 

More doubt exists as to whether any form of 
magnifying spectacles was used, such as must surely 
have been employed by Miers and the others who did 
silhouettes for jewelled settings. If our dear grand- 
mothers really cut these minute patterns without 
artificial aid, the process may explain our eyesight. 
Our grandparents have cut grapes and our children's 
eyes are set in spectacles. . . . 

Mrs. Delany, indeed, whose name will always be 
associated with cut-paper work, did not begin this 
labour, which might seem to call for " young eyes," 
till she was amply seventy. She had, of course, 
long ere this given delight to George III, that en- 
thusiastic amateur of all things odd, by her rolled- 
paper pictures, cardboard temples, and I know not 

188 



/-* 



T 1- * 

!T fii 

V' . iti Uv 

JBT.-"' '+ . , . w .-.TTM^TTSj 

/' -^'- ; '' ''-: : - U^iiif'^^^'A^^ 

; .yjv.-- - . - i'.-KT^t^'.^ -""xiM S, 

p?S - -^^fev^p 





HERALDIC EMBLEM 
Cut in white paper (xviii. century). Actual size. 



CUT PAPER 



what of curious enterprise ; but the inscription in her 
famous " Hortus Siccus," now in the British Museum, 
begins : 

" Plants copied after Nature in paper Mosaick 
begun in the year 1774 : 

Hail to the happy hour ! when Fancy led 
My pensive mind this flowery path to tread." 

A paean of joy surprising when one reads : 

" This paper mosaick work was first begun in the 
seventy-fourth year of my age (which I at first only 
meant as an imitation of an ' Hortus Siccus ') as an 
employment and amusement, to supply the loss of 
those that had formerly been delightful to me ; but 
had lost their power of pleasing ; being deprived 
of that Friend, whose partial approbation, was my 
Pride, and had stamp't a value on them. . . ." 
(The reference is no doubt to her husband.) 

This preface, which runs to some length, is signed 
" Mary Delany, Bulstrode, 5th July, 1779." 

Three years later, or eight after the work's be- 
ginning, in a more shaky hand appears this tragic 
entry : 

" The time is come. I can no more 
The Vegetable world explore, 
189 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

No more with rapture cull each flower 
That paints the mead or twines the Bower. . . . 
Farewell to all those friendly Powers 
That blest my solitary Hours. 
Alas, farewell ! . . . 
! sanctify the pointed Dart, 
Thai at this Moment rends my Heart ; 
Teach me submissive to resign 
When summoned by thy Will Divine. 
St. James Place, 1782. M. D." 

The flowers themselves, of which there are ten 
bulky volumes, are cut in small bits with no attempt 
at a bold sweep, and mounted upon black. Often 
the signature M. D. is cut out in black, and the 
specimens are dated. The colour is good and a fine 
effect is gained in such a specimen as that named 
" Lilium Canadensis " (this may be garden latin, so 
I leave it), with endless super-imposed reds, pinks, 
yellows, touched by spots of paint. On the whole, 
most success is gained with the small plants, for there 
is no pretence at grouping in the larger pieces ; but 
the realism of the work is startling, and it must 
always remain a wonderful achievement for so old a 
lady. 

190 



CUT PAPER" 



She did not at all events lack praise in her own 
day. "Letters from Mrs. Delany to Mrs. Frances 
Hamilton from the year 1779 to 1788," published by 
Longman in 1820 with a silhouette frontispiece of 
Mrs. Delany, is full of tributes from the greatest 
in the land. George III looked on the old lady as no 
less than a genius, and the kindness to her of him 
and his Queen seems to have had no limits. So late 
as 1787 Mrs. Preston writes, " The King and Queen . . . 
increase in affection and respect to Mrs. D., and the 
King always makes her lean on his arm. Her house 
is cheerful, and filled with her own charming works. 
No pictures have held their colours so well. I had 
time to look over near a volume of her flowers. She 
has finished nine hundred and eighty sheets, and 
regrets that the thousand she intended wants twenty 
of its full number." Dr. Darwin, author of the 
" Botanic Garden," wrote a poem beginning : 

" So now Delany forms her mimic powers, 
Her paper foliage and her silken flowers." 

Whilst Mr. Gilpin, another author of those days, 
records in a book on the Highlands : 

" In the progress of her work she pulls the flower 
in pieces and having cut her papers to the shape 

191 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

of the several parts, she puts them together, giving 
them a richness and consistence, by laying one piece 
over another, and often a transparent piece over 
part of a shade which softens it. Very rarely she 
gives any colour with a brush. . . . These flowers 
have both the beauty of painting and the exactness 
of botany ; and the work, I have no doubt, into 
whatever hands it may hereafter fall, will be long 
considered as a great curiosity." 

Finally, Mr. Chalmers in his Biographical Dic- 
tionary, having paid a tribute to her oil-paintings, 
embroidery, and shell-work, proceeds : " But what 
is more remarkable, at the age of seventy-four she 
invented a new and beautiful mode of exercising her 
ingenuity." The article is long, but as of chief 
interest emerge three facts : Mrs. Delany did not 
draw her flowers before she cut them she dyed 
paper if none of the Chinese varieties at her disposal 
fitted Nature's hue and by a pleasant touch which 
reveals the fine old lady (whom he calls "a noble 
ruin ") in a single human moment, he tells us that 
she would sometimes place a real leaf among her 
simulated ones and note with joy that nobody 
detected it. ... 

No greater mistake, however, could be made than 
192 




UJ 
crt 

D 

O 

X 



_ o 

o 3 



CUT PAPER" 



to imagine that flowers or even landscapes exhausted 
the resources of fancy-subject silhouette. Its variety 
indeed would be not the least charm for a collector ; 
and it may be at once asserted with dogmatic brevity 
(for a whole book could easily be written on so-called 
" cut-paper ") that in this department of silhouette 
one can not speak of any decadence. These fancy- 
cuts had always something childish in them whence 
their perennial attraction. They were a thing that 
people did " for fun " ; and often enough that is 
how the things most worth while are produced. 
How proud these craftsmen were as their original 
conception grew, how hard it was to lay the master- 
piece aside or make the dull admission that it had 
been finished ! Of course they did not ! No, they 
added spangles. . . . There was never any classic 
severity about cut-paper, and so it follows there can 
be no decadence. True, one of the earliest specimens 
in my tentative collection, undated but marked 
Jacobean by its frame and spirit, shows the sim- 
plicity of old lace in its fine design ; but one no later 
has all the glory of straw buildings, multicoloured 
peacocks, and silk-garbed courtiers. 

Children with stiff arms averted from their take- 
off clothes ; birds that gain colour (through slit 

193 N 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

paper) from silk gummed below ; paper in varied 
thicknesses, to show sunsets and varied light-effects 
when held up to a candle ; handsomely clothed 
figures before cut and painted backgrounds ; ela- 
borate Dutch landscapes, whole avenues of wobbly 
cut-out trees, encased in deep, worm-eaten boxes; 
a pair of urns with gorgeous bouquets of lavishly 
protruding blossoms, one inscribed " Julia," the other 
" Kate " ; cut-paper fans ; a candle-screen, cut 
flowers between talc ; Napoleon profile in black with 
every fold of his coat shown, the high lights got by 
the white paper background ; the same front-face, 
an awful and quite un-Imperial sight ; a troop of 
cavalry, showing their black shadows cast before 
them by an equally black sun ; monkish productions, 
the work of hands left idle by the printing-press and 
its swift victory over manuscript productions often 
not far from that kindred hobby, pin-prick pictures ; 
early sporting scenes, cut in white paper or (a later 
luxury) in gold, with dogs that pounce at abrupt 
angles upon hinds or hares quite undismayed; 
delicious imitations of worked samplers, with crazy 
houses in the background and before them a post- 
impressionist menagerie of animals in sizes never 
planned by nature, vast swans swimming past wee 

194 



CUT PAPER" 



stepping horses or timid ladies overshadowed by 
well-nourished swine : without discussing such old 
circles as are found in watches or square end-papers 
seen in ancient tomes, what end should there be to 
enumerating the varieties of subject-silhouette ? 

One or two only must have fuller mention, and for 
varied reasons. 

There are people who, under a pretence of system, 
revel in dividing everything under so many headings 
that the result is a glorious confusion. These have 
invented the weird term " Lace-paper." The work 
which it is meant to cover is nothing more than 
paper so finely cut that it resembles lace. The effect 
is naturally more striking in such a specimen as I 
have mentioned, the early design copied almost 
certainly from a lace model : but no less delightful 
when the imitation or pretence is cast totally aside. 
One, something of a compromise, shows a border 
clearly modelled upon lace, in its appropriate white, 
though in the centre is a delicately painted oval 
emblem tambourine, flute, music, roses, doves an 
utterly harmonious decoration set against black silk 
and shrined in its deep oval frame made by a carver 
at " No. 2, the East End of Middle Row, Holborn 
Bars." Other specimens of the same period, late 

195 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

eighteenth century, abandon more entirely the 
pretence of lace, for though of even more astounding 
fineness, their inspiration is from heraldry. The late 
Lady Dorothy Nevill, one of the first connoisseurs 
in this cut-paper, had a fine specimen of this work, 
mounted on a mirror. One in my collection shows 
the Beauchamp-Procter arms : namely (so a herald 
tells me), "Quarterly I. and IV.; Argent, a 
Chevron between three martlets sable Procter II. 
and III. ; Gules, a fess, between six billets (three 
and three bar ways), or ; a canton ermine Beau- 
champ. Crest: On a mount vert, a grey hound 
sejant argent, spotted brown, collared or. Motto : 
Toujours fidele." I can at least guarantee the 
motto, and hope the rest is copied out correctly. . . . 
The whole, which I should have called a wolf and 
greyhound each side of a coat-of-arms enclosed in a 
garter bearing the words " Tria Juncta In Uno," is 
in white paper, marvellously cut down to the tiniest 
rose, crown, or thistle. It is pressed between two 
bits of glass and then enclosed in a fine carved black 
and gilt frame, which carries Christie's mark. A 
circular specimen, even more minute, shows two 
cupids holding up a hatchment with three lions on it, 
(this is not the herald's wording). They perch upon 

196 



CUT PAPER 



a cloud and all around them are flowers or emblems 
of an incredible minuteness. The motto in this case 
is " La Vertu et la Sagesse Conduisent au Bonheur." 
This is cut in white and laid on blue, except that the 
hatchment bears a fittingly black background. Over 
it one of the cupids holds a wreath enclosing the 
initials " J. C. E." Inspection of this specimen, 
which only measures exactly four inches across 
leaves one incredulous till one reflects that even 
nowadays machines are left lagging far behind, when 
it comes to the finer arts. Photography, in fact, jibs 
oddly at these tiny cuttings and this one can only be 
shown with much of its fine detail lost (pi. xxxvi). 

One need not wonder that Reproduction jibs at 
another of my pet specimens, for this is eighteen 
inches by a foot and even the original is packed with 
detail. The scheme is indeed ambitious. The thing 
might be said to hold almost All Life in its futuristic 
borders at any rate, the whole life of a household. 
The hour is five to eight, so much one sees from the 
kitchen clock, and one may safely add A.M. Madam, 
on the top floor is a-bed, but yet so much awake that 
baby has been brought to her. Her boots are ready, 
too, beneath the dressing-table; the kettle boils, 
and pussy seems to point at something edible. 

197 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

Breakfast in bed, perhaps ? Those labelled bottles 
on the mantelpiece half hint at sickness, till with a 
real relief we see that Madam's hat and parasol are 
hung up ready for the afternoon. Besides, no 
invalid could bear those statues in her room. . . . 
Down in the drawing-room, where flowers luxuriate 
and the best china lives, it is a scene of opulence. 
The pictures are by Masters clearly ; silhouettes 
flank the mirror (of a silver tinsel) ; a red tinsel fire 
blazes extravagantly behind a fender of pure gold. 
The carpet, as upstairs, has a green ground ; a colour 
shared by one of the two birds. The husband or 
son ? is alert already. Quill in hand he balances 
himself grimly on one of the crazy-angled chairs and 
reaps the morning hour. Man must work, though 
woman may sleep ! Gran'pa surely it can't be the 
husband is less philosophic. He has reached the 
age when Man may keep his hat on, and he is 
querulous. Even nicotine does not console him. 
44 Dang these chairs," you can hear him complain. . . 
The lowest floor is more compendious, for here we 
get the garden too. Alas, dark doings are afoot 
so early. Well may the parrot or peacock look stiffly 
surprised, well may Fido bark and snarl beneath the 
drying clothes, for I regret to say the daughter of 

198 



"CUT PAPER 



the house (note her smart crinoline), is meeting with 
a common soldier, oddly 1790. Meanwhile, in the 
kitchen, birds break in and steal the pudding, whilst 
yet another dog (or it may be a rat) barks up at them 
from underneath the table. Next comes the servant's 
bedroom where of course for this is 1830, by the 
daughter's dress the best furniture is kept ; the 
scullery with yet another swain attendant ; and last 
of all, beneath a gamp suspended in mid-air, there 
mounts the parlour-maid with tea (we now perceive 
it all) for Madam. The first five steps alone are seen 
but the last four emerge in Madam's room. . . . 
Who after this shall say the past too did not have its 
futurists ? 

This perfect microcosm, cut in black, is headed by 
an allegoric group, beautifully wrought but of a 
meaning far beyond me. I seem dimly to discern 
a cupid and a Juno, but she may be Venus. . . . 
A rather naturally dubious-looking angel ends the 
riotous procession. 

Here is the whole preposterous, delightful, art of 
subject-silhouette at its high-water mark, and those 
who do not like it must collect Staffordshire or 
postage stamps. They have not the cut-paper 

mind. . . . 

199 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

Of course there are simpler designs for those who 
have the classic bent. The beautiful white houses 
joined by bridges (pi. xxxvii) are beyond reproach as 
a design, and not a spangle anywhere upon them : 
although the work of childish hands. "Cut with 
scissors by Miss Mary Holland, Born on the Pedlar's 
Acre March 7, 1770, before she was ten years old," 
runs the inscription, proudly attested by "Mrs. 
Mary Ann Davis, Senior." From another specimen, 
largely similar but with a less successful border, we 
learn that Mrs. Davis was Mary's mother-in-law at a 
later date. Then there is, not signed unluckily or 
dated save by its poke-bonnets, a delicious pier 
with cut-paper waves and an idle crowd of sight- 
seers ; or white birds on black backgrounds, with 
wings cut in relief a refinement found so early as 
1757. Sometimes, even, the art of painting was put 
under contribution for a subject, and opposite may 
be found an adaptation of Morland's famous picnic. 
Paper and style alike proclaim this an eighteenth 
century piece, and it is of interest to note that the 
silhouettist, so early, has not boggled at one full -face 
figure. It cannot be claimed that this is an improve- 
ment on the old convention : but in a signed portrait 
of an officer by Torond a pleasant effect is gained by 

200 




THE ANGLERS' REPAST, after Morland. 
Cut in. black paper (xviii century). Size of original 19-in. x 16. 



"CUT PAPER" 



the black profile placed over a body painted (as it 
were !) full face in grey, brown, and black. 

And lastly, lest to close upon these plain specimens 
should kindle heresies on decadence, a specimen no 
later shows a full-face Ceres walking through the 
corn whilst cupids riot round her and a dragon 
looking very out of place lies by her side. Lutes, 
drums, scrolls of music, mix with birds and squirrels 
in the splendidly cut border and no colour almost 
in the rainbow is found wanting. 

In short, for once embarked upon cut -paper, I 
grow tedious, here ready for collectors is a field whose 
great charm is the unexpected. You never may 
become an expert . . . but you can never grow 
accustomed. Each specimen shows something new. 

Lately, in the provinces, a dealer in reply to my 
inquiries said : " Now what a pity, sir, you didn't 
call in a few days ago. I had a table covered with 
that queer old stuff. Oh, it was finely cut. I never 
saw such work ; but no one seemed to fancy it, and 
so I scraped it off. A fine old Chippendale piece it 
was too. I wish I'd known you cared for that old 
paper-work. . . ." 

We all have our tragedies. And I console myself 
with the reflection that it may have happened twenty 

201 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

years ago, or even not at all. Certainly no seasoned 
connoisseur will vex his soul about the old old tale : 
" I've just sold such a beauty." These are the lures 
of a dealer who wishes one to call again ; arts no less 
obvious than those of the dear, simple collector who 
believes in the policy of " stalking-horses." Averting 
his eye doggedly from the object he is panting to 
possess, he asks in hang-dog tones, " Have you got 
any miniatures of Nelson ? " or something similar. 
The dealer scarcely worries to reply. To him this is 
a query in the class of " How d'you do ? " To 
answer in full betrays social inexperience. " No, 
sir," he says tolerantly : " do you collect anything 
else ? " " Well," answers the wily one, striving 
to combine a calm voice with his bumpy heart, 
" what's that old black portrait on chalk is it ? 
in the window ? " . . . The dealer turns his back 
to get it, and his smile is hidden. Another silhouette 
collector ! 

Ye gods, what fools we mortals be ! But it is of 
such harmless comedies that is compounded the 
pleasant friendship between dealer and collector ; a 
genial freemasonry that possibly no other trade can 
show. 



202 



X 
PRACTICAL 



CHAPTER X 
PRACTICAL 

THIS is a sordid chapter. People with beautiful 
white souls had better pass on to the next. 

Most of us, however, deep down in our hidden selves, 
have a black spot which hankers to worst some one 
in a deal, or at the very nicest never to be worsted 
by another. Even those who begin to spell art with 
a big A usually let s. d. creep into it before the 
end. 

I had intended maxims for collectors, and in my 
earlier note-books I find a few jotted down. 

" Buy at the cheapest and sell at the dearest shop. 
What's broken can't be mended, however well restored. 
Look at the silhouette, mistrust the signature behind. 
Never think anyone ignorant except yourself." 

What excellent good sense, and how entirely useless ! 
Splendid faith of Youth, which had planned counsel 
no less wasted than the mumbled saws of grandpapa, 
that fall upon the deaf ears of Inexperience, longing 

205 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

indeed to be wise but thinking error the pathway 
of more promise. What is the use of knowledge 
learnt by others ? Find it yourself, it is a pearl 
beyond all price ; let anyone else offer it, the thing 
is boring rubbish. . . . 

And yet there may be some few anxious to know 
what to buy, where to find it, and what to avoid. 

As to the last, a fascinating subject, the dangers are 
not yet so great as they will be in the near future. 
Even forgers stand in need of education and so far 
I have seen few of them advanced beyond the idea 
of silhouette as a cut-paper portrait. London of 
late has been deluged with a series of six heads. 
Every framemaker and most antique-dealers have 
been victimized by these rough cuttings, all bearing 
pencilled names of such high sound as Cromwell and 
Napoleon. Some one has been busy with his scissors I 
Diverging here, I may embark on yet another maxim. 
Always be suspicious of silhouettes purporting to 
be Nelson or men of an equal name. They may of 
course be ancient, they almost certainly will not be 
Nelson, who was much busier than George III. The 
placing of great names on unidentified old silhouettes 
is quite a hobby with some dealers, and, I may add, 
with some collectors also. Turning to those that 

206 



PRACTICAL 



are not old there is one series of fakes not cut out of 
paper but done upon flat glass. Some of these are 
ladies Antoinette, one may be sure but most of 
them are Generals or Admirals of old-world repute. 
The names of these are written on the glass (a thing 
I can recall in no authentic specimen), usually with 
one letter above another, like the signature of a 
Japanese print or forged wax medallion. Anyone 
with half an ounce of observation can detect these 
from the fact that the glass is too big and the ink 
of a dirty unconvincing brown. Equally unsatisfying 
to anyone not fatally myopic is the attempt to gild 
the cut-out shadow. Where the difference lies it is 
not easy to describe in words, but colour and above 
all touch are wrong. The most frequent gilt specimen 
that I have seen is of a youth, rather large in size, 
inscribed with the fine name " Sir Rainald Knightley." 
This may be found in plain black also or on a curious 
pink glass. Dear Sir Rainald, he is an old friend. 
I have met him in a score of shops and half as many 
guises. He must be, in popularity, a close rival to 
George Washington. 

Quite an interesting collection might be made of 
fakes, and indeed Mrs. Nevill Jackson told me once 
that she intended it. Another could be formed, 

207 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

cheerily amusing, of the poor unknown folk who 
have been posthumously christened Wellington, 
Queen Charlotte, Washington, or Marie Antoinette. 
I have a really fine old silhouette of a young man in the 
eighteen-twentys inscribed Napoleon, and once pos- 
sessed a duly autographed Dickens, superb in college 
ca p . what irony to those who know his younger days I 
Frames are no guide, even when you have learnt 
to know at sight those brought into being through 
wholesale massacre of papier mache" trays and 
fitted with thin acorns of new brass. They are a 
snare, indeed, for many an old frame has held a 
silhouette cut from the Connoisseur and backed by 
a reprint of the 1810 Observer or sections from old 
calf book -bindings, whilst that delicious lady in 
the top-hat from Mrs. Nevill Jackson's book must 
be quite used, by now, to an old thin brass oval 1 She 
certainly is charming as a decoration, but I have met 
her in some good collections. These are the moments 
when tact fights with truth. I have also, in my wander- 
ings, met many a gilt silhouette ascribed to Edouart, 
clearly by people who have never read that stern 
profilist's warm comments on this " unnatural " 
addition to the shadow proper. Edouart, by the 
way, although commonly called Auguste, signed 

208 



PRACTICAL 



" Aug n - Edonart," short for Augustin, a curious fact 
ignored by one forger whose clever work has come 
my way. 

Well, they will learn, as they have learnt in needle- 
work and china. Soon we shall have them working 
upon chalk like Miers, rivalling the daintiness of Mrs. 
Beetham, and then the real fun will begin, for what 
else is Collecting than a contest of wits, a trial of 
strength, one more form of all-inclusive sport ? Soon, 
too, no doubt we shall have beautiful cut-papers and 
they will be ashamed of the one specimen that I 
have so far seen, though I have seen it often : Victoria, 
crudely cut, with wobbly generals reviewing the 
troops at her coronation. 

What to buy, then, these ignored ? 
First of all, of course if you can specimens on 
chalk or glass, complete in pear-wood or brass oval, 
with label still unbroken, and the beautiful old 
convex glass adorned with patterns in the gold and 
white. Here is the cream of silhouette and I will 
allow counterfeiters a good century before they 
reach to it. But even when fate does not smile to 
this extent, one often finds labelled specimens, and 
these should be preferred for reasons clear from the 
pages before this. Eighteenth-century portraits, 

20Q o 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

too, are an obvious objective, and plain black profiles, 
or black and grey contrary to vulgar prejudice 
are better than the gilt, unless these last are labelled 
Miers. 

After a little, naturally, collectors will learn the 
styles of profilists so surely that the author of a 
profile can be named at sight. For this, like all else, 
there is no master but experience. All of the great 
exponents had tricks of their own, as I have tried 
to show in chapter iii, and by these their work may 
be recognized without the possibility of error. Lately, 
in visiting Mr. Wellesley's collection, I was able to 
identify two specimens in mine, entirely individual 
but unluckily not signed. In one case, it was a fine 
portrait of an officer, painted on glass to throw the 
shadow on to chalk behind ; the body as dark as 
in work by Charles, the face curiously transparent. 
In Mr. Wellesley's collection I found one done in 
exactly the same formula and signed by Lea of 
Portsmouth, who no doubt mostly painted martial 
sitters. The other specimen was yet more individual, 
not so much from its style of paint as from the 
method of its setting. Here (for it was in fact a 
pair) portraits delicately painted on flat glass were 
surrounded by an oval of holes pierced in the black, 

310 




AN OFFICER 
By H. P. Roberts, painted on flat glass. 



PRACTICAL 



thus displaying circles of a gold-leaf laid behind. 
This novel method of obtaining a gold-and-black 
border was, I now learn, the speciality of H. P. 
Roberts. As this artist signed but little, yet did 
work easy to recognize at sight, I reproduce the 
specimen, pi. xxxix. At Knole there is a pair by 
H. P. Roberts upon which I could find no name, 
and other connoisseurs or owners may be helped to 
a sure attribution 

Upon the point of what to buy it would be idle 
to say more. The best, naturally : and the gift to 
recognize it is a gift from heaven. There is in 
good things, as old Plato knew, an intrinsic quality, 
unmistakable and indescribable, so that a man who 
has once learnt the meaning of the Good will know 
instinctively good china, good prints, good silhouettes, 
good anything at all. The tragedy of this world 
is that most people have a flair only for the bad. . . . 

Some portraits simply cut-out are of value, others 
would be dear at threepence ; with which obvious 
but deep remark, and the advice that broken specimens 
are never cheap, I must pass on to my next heading, 
"Where To Buy." 

London, certainly. Ask any dealer, he will say 
the same. So far as antiques go, it is indeed " the 

211 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

market of the world." The Paris quays ? Paris is 
buying old stuff (and new) daily from the London 
dealers. In Germany, as France, the silhouette 
has won its way back earlier than here, and every- 
thing is snapped up for that market from the London 
shops. 

London is the place, but use a little common sense. 
Think of the rents, and buy where the big dealers 
buy. Not in draughty cattle markets, exploited 
by reporters and stocked largely by the West-end 
brokers, but in the little back-streets and the outer 
suburbs. Yet equally, since any dogma holds about 
as much truth as its opposite, often a big dealer will 
scornfully ask nothing for small things bought in a 
lot with something that he wanted. 

Least satisfactory of all must be accounted private 
bargains. The man who knows nothing about 
values does not favour anyone except himself. He 
has " been told that it is very valuable." It certainly 
is " very old." He would not sell if he did not 
want money instantly. He thinks it should be 
worth a five-pound note to you. And a remittance 
will oblige. . . . 

Lately, a Yorkshire worthy wrote to me, saying 
he had two silhouettes " on paper, framed in ebony," 

212 



PRACTICAL 



and alternate formula desired an offer. A friend 
had " made an offer for them and said they were 
valuable." Admiring the superior honesty of a friend 
who apparently in one breath could make these two 
remarks, I answered that I could perhaps do more 
if I might either see the silhouettes or else know 
what his friend had offered. This last altogether 
without guile : I wished to see what was expected 
of me. Perhaps I never quite realized what havoc 
ten years of London had played with my moral sense 
till I received his answer. I was to understand that 
it would not be fair to his friend to give his bid 
away ; " folks in Yorks," did not transact business 
in that way. The silhouettes were marvellously 
" well preserved," and had " always been displayed 
in his drawing-room " ; and when he was next in 
London he would " call into Christie's with them 
and have them valued properly." . . . 

Dear me, what a lot of life's fun is missed by those 
poor people who are not collectors ! 



218 



XI 

NOW 
AND WHAT THEN? 



CHAPTER XI 
NOW AND WHAT THEN ? 

IT is an amusing modern affectation to look down 
on all the old accomplishments, as one who should 
say : " Poor dears, and so they really did these 
things ? How bored they must have been. Imagine 
never having to extend your mind as you must do 
at Bridge !".... 

Thus a lover of the eighteenth-century profiles, 
hearing much chatter as to Silhouette's revival, 
naturally looks for big things indeed. He looks for 
these condescending moderns to improve upon the 
old accomplishment they have revived. . . . 
He may look. 

Let me not be thought to say a word against the 
many profilists who have sprung up, by the old law 
of demand, like mystic mushrooms upon every side. 
Monsieur Ely, of the West Pier at Brighton, is 
probably the best known among those who have 
been established long before the new revival. He 
cuts free hand, with fine contempt for the preliminary 

217 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

sketch, but owns an open mind, for whilst a warm 
defender of the Edouart convention, he is an experi- 
mentalist, as all self-respecting silhouettists should 
be. His fancy cuts have long shared the reputation 
of his portraits, and he is now embarking on a 
variant of the old black-and-gold glass etching. 

Handrup, established at the Crystal Palace, who 
cuts out fine portraits in two minutes, equally shows 
a pretty taste for fancy-subjects ; a department, 
however, in which the name of Captain Tharpe must 
stand supreme among the living silhouettists. Baron 
Scotford has lately come to Regent Street, via 
Paris, Rome, Brussels, and Glasgow, from America, 
nor need those who know anything of Silhouette 
marvel that a land reputed modern should give 
out such old-world products, for was she not the 
home of Peale and Patience Wright ? did she not 
welcome to her bosom Edouart and Master Hubard ? 

Scotford in any case is an accomplished and a rapid 
cutter. Setting his patron against a light back- 
ground, but with no intervening screen, he draws 
a rough outline in pencil (a habit deprecated, be it 
said, by Handrup no less than by Bly), and doubling 
a piece of thin black paper snips it with astounding 
sureness as he turns it hither and thither in a 

218 





MICK1EWICZ. POLISH POET 
Painted on card by Phil May, 1888. 



NOW AND WHAT THEN? 

bewildering way. It may be here remarked that 
Bly, whilst commonly working in a like manner, 
sometimes uses an adaptation of the "camera lucida," 
a pleasant contrivance by which one finds the sitter's 
head placed at a convenient size upon the paper laid 
before one. This is of interest as showing a recur- 
rence to the old advertised " machine." 

The whole of this modern paper-cutting is in fact 
full of an interest, however melancholy, to lovers of 
the old. Scotford is of Edouart's school, but whilst 
he has a happy gift for faces, especially of children, 
he lacks his predecessor's odd sense of the character 
in clothes. A portrait, for instance, of George 
Grossmith Junior, individual and able, carries the 
line from chest to knee in a pure curve, artistically 
good perhaps for Scotford wielded the brush in 
Paris ateliers before he grasped the scissors but surely 
not sartorially true. Edouart could show a man's 
soul in his buttons ! 

In any case, I repeat, there is no word to be said 
against these cut-portraits, but they do not seem 
quite enough to justify the big word, "revival." 
In the best days of Silhouette, this book has shown, 
the finest artists never touched a pair of scissors. 
As to this, Scotford confessed to me that he had 

219 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

never seen a Miers, Rosenberg or Beetham, whilst 
Handrup in an interesting booklet makes the rather 
astonishing assertion : " In days gone by ... a 
few painted exquisitely on ivory and plaster with 
or without gold ; some on glass, china, silk or paper ; 
others used mechanical devices, but it was considered 
the proper and most artistic way to cut with scissors 
direct from black paper . . . without any drawing or 
outlining beforehand. This of course was very 
difficult, but on the other hand they were able to obtain 
better results, because if a line be drawn ever so fine 
sharp scissors will cut it finer, even a hair's thickness 
too much or too little altering the whole expression 
it is here the art of the executor lies." 

" It was considered. . . ." Here indeed is Edouart 
redivivus 1 In fact, this whole " revival " is oddly 
like Edouart 's "renaissance." In neither case is 
anything at all heard of those great eighteenth- 
century artists who made Silhouette an art to be 
compared in its fineness and decorative charm with 
that of miniature. 

But even if it were, even if our reigning beauties 
could still pay down their guineas to have their 
noses immortalized on plaster, are there not already 
enough arts content to rest weakly on bad copies 

220 



NOW AND WHAT THEN? 

of great achievements in the years gone by ? Will 
no man of creative, of inventive force, a second 
Foster, throw in his lot with this poor dainty art, 
crushed out of sight for half a century by the banausic 
camera and just beginning to crawl back ? Phil 
May has shown a little how modern formulae could 
be adapted to this old-world art, and years ago in 
Edgware Road I had the good luck to find three 
delicious painted specimens, of which one may be 
seen upon pi. xl. Signed " Phil May, '88, Paris, Chat 
Noir," it is a portrait of Mickiewicz, the Polish Poet. 
Paganini so Edouart tells us with pride was wont 
to declare that Edouart 's portrait was the only one 
which did not burlesque him. I am ready to wager 
about Mickiewicz, " though I have never seen him " 
(to use the ingenuous Lavater's favourite formula), 
that no artist using any other method could convey 
to the spectator a more vivid, a more genially illu- 
minating impression of the man in his habit as he 
lived than poor Phil May has given in this brilliant 
profile. The other two, representing the artist 
himself with his perpetual cigar and Kennedy of 
the old Aquarium instinct with the showman's suave 
assurance, are portraits just as firmly satisfying ; 
rousing sad regrets but also encouraging the hope 

221 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

that some fine artist may yet turn his gifts to portrait 
silhouette in some sense broader than the snipped- 
out paper. 

Meanwhile, Silhouette is King after his fashion. . . . 

Every one suddenly is a collector of the antique 
shadows. Dealers who, asked for them five years 
ago, sniffed " We don't worry about them," are now 
canvassing the lucky buyers. Museums, imprudently 
void of silhouettes till now, are hastily buying 
before the market rises further, and already Walter 
Scott, Liston (two portraits, one the duplicate of that 
upon pi. xix), and other of the new-found Edouarts 
are in the National Portrait Gallery, whilst many 
more have gone to Edinburgh and Dublin. Photo- 
graphers, quick to embrace the rival they had thought 
long dead, are imitating the cut-paper by taking 
portraits close against a light-backed screen. The 
daily Press begins to call woman's latest modish 
shape her silhouette. Black tardily becomes a 
fashionable colour ; cushions, curtains, posters, every- 
where is the reaction to Simplicity. Sumurun's 
shadow-frieze set the stage-managers wide-eyed and 
minarets are everywhere against the sky. The 
music halls are never far behind. " The Shadow Man 
and Lady Silhouette : Artistic, Amusing, and Always 

222 





Cut (I) by Master Hubard and (2) by Edouart (1826.) 



NOW -AND WHAT THEN? 

Successful," " Silveno's Gallantygraph from U.S.A., 
embracing hand shadows, silhouettes, and mechanical 
figures, ships, &c." these from a recent Organ of 
Variety ! Artists without the e are quickly falling 
to the subject-silhouette, however shy as yet of 
portraiture Maxwell Ayrton has produced some 
utterly delightful coaching-scenes, drawn of course, 
not cut, and by his kindness I am able to use one as 
this book's end-papers. This is a thoroughly success- 
ful adaptation of the cut -paper formula to Painting, 
and Arthur Rackham also has used it, with a sure 
art no less than Konewka's, in his recent decorations 
for "jEsop's Fables." The humorists of course 
have long since seen its inimitable worth. Leslie 
Willson, in the cycling days, did a whole book-full 
called, " The Scorcher's Progress," wherein a red- 
profile cyclist pursues his path through dead-black 
traffic of assorted kinds, routing even the Life Guards 
before a light yellow St. James's Palace, until at last 
he meets with a steam-roller. This is a thoroughly 
clever English specimen of modern silhouette, well 
able to hold its own with the attempts of Caran 
d'Ache. More recently, our comic artists have used 
the method freely; men of standing like Charles 
Pears, or that most luxuriant of grotesque draughts- 

223 



THE ART OF SILHOUETTE 

men, H. M. Bateman, who has perpetrated some 
delirious shadows. 

* Perhaps, in fact, the use of Silhouette in humour 
may largely claim to be a modern product, although 
invented long before the so-called great revival, 
which cannot snatch this credit as its own. 

Well, it is young, and meanwhile, turning away from 
the half-crown cut-out, however excellent; looking 
up for hope and consolation to the dainty old- 
world portraits gleaming on our walls ; those of us 
who love poor Silhouette and know what he has 
been, rejoice to see him raised by the fickle crowd 
on to his throne again, even if he be but a shade of his 
own shadowy self. 




FINIS 



INDEX 

AMELIA, Princess, 125 
BRITISH Museum, 91 

CHALMERS, 192 
Christie, 196 
COLLECTORS : 

Brown, Rev. Forster, 85 

Cairnes, Mrs., 59 

Dorotti, Madame, 84 

Fleming, Mrs., 66 

Guest, Montague, 72, 168 

Jackson, Mrs. Nevill, 11, 18, 14, 32, 57, 66, 
103, 117, 118, 145, 207, 208 

Lane, John, 72 

Nevill, Lady Dorothy, 125, 175, 196 

Sackville, Lady, 14, 56, 159-162 

Snow, Major-General D'Oyly, 116 

Stanton, Captain, 60 

Talbot, Hon. Miss Frances, 126 

Taylor, Mrs. Bromley, 163, 164 

Tweedie, Mrs. Alec, 113 

Weguelin, Mrs., 72 

Wellesley, Mr. Francis, 14, 31, 52, 66, 67, 71, 
72, 74, 110, 113, 114, 125, 148, 165-169, 210 

Wyatt, Mrs., 110, 113, 114 
Connor, Mr., 107 

DARWIN, Dr., 191 

Davis, Mrs. Mary Ann, senr., 200 

Downman, 167 

225 P 



INDEX 

GILPIN, Mr., 191 
HAMILTON, Mrs. Frances, 191 
KNOLE, 86, 56, 159, 167, 211 

LACE-PAPER, 195 

Lavater, J. G., 88-85, 41-44, 97, 125, 172, 178, 221 

Lucas, 163 

Lukis, Frederica, 104, 116, 117 

McRAE, John, 150 
Mills, Weymer, 54, 169 

NATIONAL Portrait Gallery, 81, 222 

RUSKIN, John, 84 

SILHOUETTE, Etiennc de, 12, 182 

SlLHOUETTISTS : 

Adolphe, 114, 122 

Atkinson, G., 31 

Ayrton, Maxwell, 223 

Bateman, H. M., 224 

Beaumont, 88, 92, 116, 126, 170 

Beetham, Mrs., 18, 30, 37, 88, 45, 47-50, 54, 61, 

62, 65, 66, 72, 86, 89, 109, 124, 187-141, 160, 

166, 168, 170, 182, 209, 220 
Belluti, 174 

Blessington, Countess of, 127, 185 
Ely, Monsieur, 217-219 
Broc, Verfertick L., 184 
Bull, Mrs., 51 
Charles, 18, 22, 49-51, 54, 62, 85, 89, 146, 170, 

210 

Coog, 161 
Cook, Jane E., 187 
d'Ache, Caran, 228 
Dashwood, Lady, 125 
220 



INDEX 

SILHOUETTISTS continued 

Delaney, Mrs., as subject, 31 ; as cut-paper 

artist, 188-192 
Dempsey, 154 
Driscoll, 116 
Edouart, Augustin Amant Constance Fidele, 12, 

13, 29, 32, 37, 46, 54, 63, 80, 83, 97-112, 

116-118, 147-151, 160, 170, 172, 173, 182, 

208, 209, 218-221 

Field, 63, 75, 76, 145, 146, 168, 170 
Foster, of Derby, 56-61, 64, 81, 82, 92, 121, 161, 

164, 170, 181, 221 
Frith, F., 75, 77, 78, 92, 170 
Frohlich, Karl, 183 
Gapp, J., 46, 80, 154, 183, 184 
Gonord, 113 
Haines, 136, 154 
Hamlet, 66, 170 
Handrup, 218, 220 
Harrington, Mrs., 71 
Herve, 63, 75-77, 170 
Holland, Miss Mary, 200 
Hubard, Master, 31, 32, 78, 79, 136, 151-153, 

170, 184, 218 

Hunt, Mrs. Leigh, 31, 32, 124 
Jorden, 52, 66, 170 
Joubert, 161 
Kelfe, Lane, 124 
Kennedy, 221 
Konewka, 172, 183, 223 
Lea, of Portsmouth, 181, 210 
Lightfoot, Mrs., 143 
Lovell, Thomas, 145 
MacKenzie, Laura, 126 
May, Phil, 221 
Miers, John, 13, 30, 32, 45, 61-66, 72, 76, 82, 

92, 109, 118, 136, 142-147, 160, 164, 166, 168, 

170, 171, 188, 209, 220 
227 



INDEX 

SILHOUETTISTS continued 
Mitchell, J. S., 60, 61 
Momfroy, John, 187 
Miiller, Wilhclm, 160, 183 
Packeny, 183 
Peale, 218 
Pears, Charles, 223 
Phelps, 74 
Philip, John, 124 
Prosopographus, 88, 89 
Pye, John, 163 
Rackham, Arthur, 223 
Roberts, II. P., 211 
Rosenberg, Charles, 30, 87, 43, 45, 48, 51-54, 

89, 107, 136, 141, 142, 151, 160, 167, 168, 170, 

172, 220 

Rosier, James, junr., 80 
liought, 73, 147 
Rudolph, 175 
Runge, 188 
Schatzmann, 125 
Scotford, Baron, 218, 219 
Seville, F. VV., 91 
Skeolan, 154 

Spornberg, W., 54-57, 82, 161, 168, 170 
Templeton, Lady, 185 
Tharp, Captain, 218 
Thomason, I., 147, 170 
Torond, 71, 107, 113, 147, 200 
Tussaud, J. P., 88 
Sellings, 161 
Wigston, Mrs., 185 
Willson, Leslie, 223 
Woodham, J., 86 
Woods, 185 

Wright, Mrs. Patience, 118, 218 
Young, W. M., 84 
Smith, Albert, 172 

228 



INDEX 

Stadler, 172 

Subject-silhouettes, 183-201 
SUBJECTS : 

Alexandra, Queen, 160 

Ansley family, 56 

Awdry, the Misses, 83 

Bedford, Duchess of, 160 

Brougham, Lord, 171 

Browning, Robert, 32 

Buckland, Dr., 102 

Burney family, 110 

Burney, Fanny, 32 

Burns, Mrs., 143 

Burns, Robert, 32, 171 

Byron, Lord, 32 

Charles X, 32, 101 

Charlotte, Queen, 31, 163 

Dalrymple, Sir Hew, 72 

Darling, daughters of Sir Ralph, 117 

Derby, Countess of, 160 

D'Oyly, Sir Thomas, 116 

Egerton, Mrs., 176 

Elizabeth, Princess, 31 ; as amateur artist, 
124, 125, 176 

Erskine, 176 

Fauconberg, Lord, 161 

Frederick of Prussia, 173 

Fisher, Kitty, 176 

Fitzherbert, Mrs., 31 

Fox, Charles James, 31 

George III, 31, 60, 72, 162, 163, 167, 171-173, 
188, 191 

George IV, 31, 52, 176 

Gibbon, Edward, 31, 171 

Goethe, 31, 167 ; as amateur profilist, 113 

Goldsmith, Oliver, 31 

Grey, Earl, 171 

Grossmith, George, junr., 219 
229 



INDEX 

S UBJECTS continued 

Gutch, Rev. John, 103 
Harrison, General, 73 
Howe, Lord (reputed), 63 
Johnstone, Mrs., 176 
Jones, Miss Di, 47, 49 
Josephine, Empress, 164 
Kean, Edmund, 176 
Keate, Dr., 171 
Keats, John, 32 
Keith, Sir Robert, 72 
Knightley. Sir Rainald, 207 
Lee, James, 152 
Liston, John, 108, 222 
Magendie, Bishop of Bangor, 98 
Massy, Hon. C., 146 
Mathews, Mrs., 47, 49 
Mickiewicz, 221 
Napoleon, 81, 164 
Nelson, Lord, 81, 85 
O'Connell, Daniel, 171 
Paganini, 32, 221 
Parry family, 126 
Pembroke, Earl of, 72 
Pitt, William, 31, 92, 174 
Pius VI, Pope, 57-59 
Pompadour, Mme. dc, 32 
Robinson, Perdita, 81 
Russell, Lord John, 171 
Sackville, Lord, 160 
Scott, Sir Walter, 32, 66, 222 
Siddons, Mrs., 176 
Simeon, Dr., 109, 151 
Smart, 168 
Stephens, Miss, 176 
Symons, Benjamin Parsons, 103 
Thomson, David, 129-132 
Thun (? Thier), Mdlle., 72, 73 
230 



INDEX 

S UB JECTS continued 

Tyler, President John, 103 

Victoria, Queen, 31 

Wellington, Duke of, 32, 77, 85 

William IV, 31 

White, Blanco, 103 
Swift, Jonathan, 46 

TOMKINS, 125 

Townshend, Barbara Anne, 172 

Tuer, Andrew, 33 

VICTORIA and Albert Museum, 33, 166, 170, 176, 185 



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