JAIC 2002, Volume 41, Number 3, Article 1 (pp. 203 to 223)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2002, Volume 41, Number 3, Article 1 (pp. 203 to 223)



ABSTRACT—American portrait silhouettes were made by a range of people, from highly trained portrait artists to itinerant peddlers to family members snipping away in the drawing room. Some silhouettes are fine examples on watermarked paper deftly tipped into albums, and others are constructed from homemade materials cobbled together. This article discusses the history, materials, and techniques of silhouettes in the United States and their historical precedents abroad. The range of silhouette formats and the wide array of tracing machines that were employed to capture profiles straight from the face are also considered. A final section surveys conservation problems presented by these unique artifacts.

TITRE—Profils en papier: les portraits en silhouette américains. RÉSUMÉN—Aux États-Unis, les portraits en silhouette furent réalisés par une gamme variée d'individus, allant des portraitistes fortement qualifiés jusqu'aux colporteurs ambulants, ou encore par des membres de la famille qui s'adonnèrent au découpage dans leur salon. Certains portraits en silhouette sont de fins exemplaires sur papier filigrané et habilement collés dans des albums, alors que d'autres furent fabriqués à partir de matériaux faits à la main et assemblés tant bien que mal. Cet article présente l'histoire, les matériaux et les techniques des portraits en silhouette aux États-Unis et leurs précédents historiques à l'étranger. La gamme des formats et la grande sélection d'appareils qui ont été utilisés pour tracer directement les profils à partir du visage sont également considérées. Une dernière section examine les problèmes de conservation que présentent ces objets singuliers.

TITULO—Perfiles sobre papel: retratos Americanos en forma de siluetas. RESUMEN—Los retratos americanos en forma de siluetas eran hechos por una variedad de individuos, desde retratistas especialmente entrenados, hasta artistas ambulantes o miembros de una familia tijereteando en la sala de estar. Algunas siluetas son refinados ejemplos de papel filigranado hábilmente fijado sobre álbumes, y otras están construidas con materiales caseros aplicados unos junto a otros. Este artículo se refiere a la historia, los materiales y las técnicas de las siluetas en los Estados Unidos y sus antecedentes históricos en el extranjero. Se considera también la variedad de formatos usados para las siluetas y la amplia serie de máquinas de calcar que se empleaban para captar los perfiles directamente de los rostros. La sección final reseña los problemas de conservación presentados por estos objetos únicos.


This research began as an internship project in the paper laboratory at the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery. The author's interest in folk art and the lack of information about the materials and techniques used to create silhouettes turned the project into a long-term undertaking. Since the initial internship project, the silhouettes at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), the Fogg Art Museum, and the American Antiquarian Society have also been studied. American portrait silhouettes proved to be more than merely charming. The history and diversity of silhouette manufacture are compelling: silhouettes were made freehand and with tracing devices, by amateurs and professional artists alike. The great variety of materials and techniques found during this technical investigation reinforced the general notion that silhouette making was a popular art pursued by all manner of people.

The use of the term “silhouette” is widespread now, though this was not always the case. Early designations included “shade” and “profile.” Lesser-known terms were “miniature cutting,”“black profile,”“scissortype,” “skiagram,” “shadowgraph,” “shadow portrait,” “shadow picture,” “black shade,” or simply “likeness.” Those who cut silhouettes were sometimes called “profilists.” Auguste Amant Constant Fidèle Edouart (1789–1861), the famous French silhouettist, referred to himself as the “black shade man,” perhaps ironically, as he detailed the disdain many held for him after they learned of his trade but had yet to see the excellent quality of his work (Edouart 1835, 3).

The name “silhouette” derives from the surname of an 18th-century finance minister to King Louis XV who, in 1757, lasted a mere eight months in his post due to his financial conservatism (Mègroz 1949; Piper 1970). Etienne de Silhouette's stringent monetary tactics proved overwhelmingly unpopular, and, as a result, things that were considered miserly or cheap were labeled à la Silhouette. It is often suggested in the literature that the connection with the art was further cemented by Silhouette's own penchant for cutting profiles as a hobby, though that may simply be folklore.

The artist Henry Fuseli (1741–1825) used the term “silhouette” in 1801 in London (Rosenblum 1957). This usage challenges the common belief that the term was first introduced to England by the silhouettist Edouart, who arrived in England from France in 1829. That Fuseli was Swiss and was educated in continental Europe may account for his earlier use of the term. It is likely that Edouart purposefully popularized the name “silhouette” because he wanted to create the impression that his art was something new; he sought specifically to distance his work from the popular “shade” that was often traced by machine, a method he found crude and meritless (Edouart 1835). Even after the term “silhouette” was introduced, “shade” did not go out of fashion; Queen Victoria called her 1834 album a collection of shades (Mègroz 1949). In fact, Edouart reported in the 1830s that once outside England's urban areas, the name “silhouette” meant little to the people he encountered (Oliver 1977).

The earliest known silhouette was probably a double portrait of the English monarchs William and Mary done by Elizabeth Rhijberg in the late 17th century (Simms 1937; Mègroz 1949; Hickman 1968; Roe 1970). During the 18th and 19th centuries, there were numerous well-known English silhouettists who usually painted their subjects onto a variety of substrates such as ivory, glass, and plaster. These artists include John Field (1771–1841), Isabella Robinson Beetham (ca. 1750–ca. 1825), John Miers (ca. 1758–1821), and Charles Rosenberg (1745–1844).

The best-known silhouettist was undoubtedly French-born Edouart, who worked mainly in England and the United States. The silhouette also flourished in other parts of Europe. In Germany, Philipp Otto Runge (1777–1810) made both painted and cut portrait bust silhouettes and paper cutouts of botanical specimens, animals, scenes, landscapes, and full figures. The French artist Jean Huber (1721–1786) cut portraits and intricate, complex landscapes and tableaux from paper and parchment.

The history of the art is engaging, in part because of the diversity of the silhouettists themselves. Some well-known dabblers included Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Hans Christian Andersen, and Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King George III. There are delicately cut silhouettes by trained artists such as William Henry Brown (ca. 1808–1883), William Doyle (1769–1828), and Raphaelle (1774–1825) and Rembrandt Peale (1778–1860). The latter two, sons of the artist Charles Willson Peale (1741–1827), relied on tracing devices to capture the profiles of their sitters. William James (“Master”) Hubard (1807–1862), an untrained English child prodigy, masterfully cut silhouettes from the age of 13 “without the least aid from Drawing, Machine, or any kind of outline” (Hubard 1825, 21). Finally, countless unnamed ordinary people cut or painted silhouettes of their friends and loved ones. That members of the royalty, scholars, dilettantes, and learned and self-taught artists were all making silhouettes speaks to the wide variety of objects and skill levels encountered when studying this art.


It is useful to be able to identify and describe the various silhouette types. Silhouettes that are drawn or painted (usually in black) onto a substrate are called, simply, a “silhouette” (fig. 1). As an example, a bust painted in black ink on a piece of paper or plaster falls into this category. “Hollow-cut silhouettes” refer specifically to silhouettes cut from a piece of paper, usually light colored, so that the middle—the positive—drops away, leaving the negative—the outside of the image—to be backed with dark paper or fabric (fig. 2). Alternatively, silhouettes in which the image is cut from a dark material, usually black paper, and mounted onto a substrate, such as a cream-colored card, are called “cutout silhouettes” (fig. 3). In this article, and generally in the literature, the term “silhouette” is used to describe the overall form of portraiture.

Fig. 1. Example of a painted silhouette. John Miers, Silhouette of a Man, facing left (proper right), black watercolor or ink bust silhouette with gold color on plaster. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, gift of Helen Foster Osborne, 1981. 470. Photograph taken by the author while the Claire W. and Richard P. Morse Fellow in Paper Conservation

Those objects that show evidence of having been traced using a device with graphite or a metal point are described as “with graphite tracing” or “with stylus tracing.” Silhouettes decorated with gold or inked-in hair are described as “with gold color” or “with black ink.” If the paper used is known to be painted or coated or is particularly matte or glossy, that information is also included. Descriptions of objects can be rather long and complicated. The description of a typical hollow-cut silhouette might read: hollow-cut bust silhouette from beige wove paper with graphite tracing and black ink, backed with matte, black-coated, white wove paper.

In addition to type and media, a third important facet of silhouette description is format. Silhouettes, like portrait sculpture, are usually either busts or full-figure. Hollow-cuts are always bust length, whereas silhouettes and cutouts are found in both formats. There are “conversation piece” silhouettes, which show a group, such as a family, in a customary setting like a drawing room (fig. 4). Such scenes were popular oil painting subjects in the 18th century. In silhouettes, conversation pieces are composed of individually cutout full-figure silhouettes as well as the cutout accessories of domestic life, including chairs, tables, toys, and books.

Fig. 2. Example of a hollow-cut silhouette. Peale Museum, William Groth(?), facing left (proper right), ca. 1802–10, hollow-cut bust silhouette from beige wove paper backed with black shiny wove paper (mounted in album of silhouettes). Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, gift of Azita Bina-Seibel and Elmar W. Seibel, 1999. 238. 9. Photograph taken by the author while the Claire W. and Richard P. Morse Fellow in Paper Conservation

Fig. 3. Example of a cutout silhouette. Samuel Metford, Thomas Goddard, cutout full-figure silhouette from matte, black-coated, white wove paper with graphite, opaque watercolor, and white paper insert (collar) mounted to a lithograph. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, bequest of Maxim Karolik, 1964. 1139. Photograph taken by the author while the Claire W. and Richard P. Morse Fellow in Paper Conservation


There are many hypotheses about the historical precedents of silhouettes. The profile images from ancient Egypt on tomb walls and in Greece on vases are oft-cited silhouette sources. In the 18th century, Neoclassicism revived interest in this simplified form of portraiture. In reaction to the excesses of the Baroque and Rococo styles and spurred on by the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 1748, the antique sensibilities were a favorite during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The use of profiles on antique coins and medals may also be a source. These antique influences can also be seen in the porcelain of Josiah Wedgwood, in Empire-style dresses, in the architecture of John Nash and Robert Smirke, and in paintings and drawings by artists such as Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867).

Fig. 4. Example of a conversation piece silhouette. Auguste Amant Constant Fidèle Edouart, William Buckland and His Wife and Son Frank, Examining Buckland's Natural History Collection, ca. 1828, cutout full-figure silhouettes from matte, black-coated, white wove paper mounted to beige wove paper. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mary L. Smith Fund, 1966. 964. Photograph taken by the author while the Claire W. and Richard P. Morse Fellow in Paper Conservation

The aesthetic connection between things antique and silhouettes is further solidified by an 1815–16 silhouette-cutting instruction book. The samples for copying found in Barbara Anne Townshend's Introduction to the Art of Cutting Groups of Figures, Flowers, Birds, &c. in Black Paper very clearly draw from the antique (fig. 5). The figures are clothed in Empire-style dress, are posed in positions suggesting classical sculpture, and have the accoutrements of “ancient” life such as vases, decorative columns, and empire furniture.

The following Greek myth recounted by Pliny the Elder also serves as a silhouette source (Bolton 1914; Hickman 1968; Piper 1970). It is the story of the Corinthian maid Dibutade who outlined her departing lover's shadow on the wall to preserve his image while he was away. The maid's father Butade filled the outline with clay and fired it with the rest of his pots in order to comfort his lonely daughter. Pliny used the story to illustrate the origins of clay modeling. By the 18th century, the myth became a popular explanation of the origins of painting and was depicted by such artists as Joseph Wright of Derby (1734–1797), Joseph-Benoît Suvée (1743–1807), and Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy-Trioson (1767–1824).

Fig. 5. Example of design from 1815–16 that one could follow to cut from black paper. Barbara Anne Townshend, Introduction to the Art of Cutting Groups of Figures, Flowers, Birds, &c. in Black Paper (London: Printed for Edward Orme, 1815–16), 6. Winterthur Museum and Library

It is worth noting that the story of Dibutade was especially popular from the 1770s through the 1820s, coinciding directly with the height of silhouette interest. Reducing features to elegant antique outlines and simple black shapes was very stylish. In an 1801 lecture at the Royal Academy in London, the artist Henry Fuseli made clear the connection between silhouettes and the Greek tale:

If ever legend deserved our belief, the amorous tale of the Corinthian maid, who traced the shade of her departing lover by the secret lamp, appeals to our sympathy to grant it. …The first essays of the art [painting] were skiagrams, simple outlines of a shade, similar to those which have been introduced to vulgar use by the students and parasites of Physiognomy, under the name Silhouettes (quoted in Rosenblum 1957, 287).

Fuseli's words point to the use of silhouettes in the “science” of physiognomy. Physiognomy was first discussed in Johann Caspar Lavater's 1770s treatise, Essay on Physiognomy, for the Promotion of the Knowledge and the Love of Mankind. Lavater, a Zurich evangelical minister, expounded the belief that moral and spiritual character could be studied in the human face, and the most accurate vehicle for examining the countenance was the silhouette. He even developed a special chair to hold sitters still while their shadows were traced. The first American edition of Lavater's treatise was published in Boston in 1794. Six years later a celebrated abridgment, The Pocket Lavater, was printed. These publications helped spread Lavater's theories and, in turn, further popularized the silhouette.

Silhouettes were embraced by the public for reasons beyond the physiognomy fad. This form of portraiture held significant advantages over others, the foremost being expense. As opposed to portrait miniatures made with precious pigments on ivory or vellum and housed in expensive cases, shades were often simply snipped from paper for a few pennies. The speed with which one could get a portrait taken was also a great advantage. Only one sitting was required, as compared to numerous sittings needed for more complex forms of portraiture, and often the sitting was brief. The quickness of the individual artist was occasionally featured in their advertisements. For example, Sam Weller claimed that with his “profeel machine” he could finish a portrait and frame it, complete with a hanging hook, within two minutes and fifteen seconds (Carrick 1928, 11). Even the meticulous English artist John Miers, whose silhouettes were delicately painted on plaster or ivory, required just a three-minute sitting, according to his label on the back of a Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, silhouette (1939.178). These advantages were quickly eclipsed by the advent of photography, which, not long after the 1839 public announcement of its invention, dealt a deadly blow to the silhouette industry.

Silhouettes were also readily available. In England, the artists congregated in London and Bath and other fashionable places frequented by “society.” Like their English counterparts, the American silhouettists, both the learned and self-trained, gathered in summer resort areas such as Gloucester, Massachusetts, and Newport, Rhode Island, hoping to gain referrals from their initial clients. Many itinerant silhouettists practiced other trades. Some were tinkers, peddlers, or sign painters. For example, in 1805 William King (1750–ca. 1850) advertised as a profilist and a provider of electric-shock treatment, the latter service being rather popular at the time (Benes 1994). Silhouettists often advertised in the local papers, staying in populous areas for a few weeks or months before moving on. (For more on the American itinerant artist, see Hill 1984, and for an excellent discussion of the professional life of one silhouettist, Ethan A. Greenwood, see Barnhill 1993.)

The major silhouettists working in the United States were Edouart, William James (“Master”) Hubard, Raphaelle Peale, Moses Williams (1777–ca. 1825), William Bache (1771–1845), Moses Chapman (ca. 1783–1821), William Doyle, Henry Williams, William King, and William Henry Brown. Silhouettes, first made in the 1760s or 1770s, became very popular in the 1780s. By 1803, a large number of both itinerant and stationary artists were available to cut silhouettes throughout the eastern United States (Miller 1988). In fact, prior to the arrival of Edouart in 1839, there were already more than 40 artists cutting silhouettes, some by hand and others with the help of a tracing device. The craze died down after the first decade of the 19th century. Interest in silhouettes revived in the 1830s, and it may well be that Edouart was essential to this revitalization, as he cut portraits of some of the most influential people of the time (Oliver 1977).

Auguste Edouart was an essential figure in silhouette history as he was one of the finest practitioners and his career spanned two continents. The facts surrounding Edouart's life are well documented and need only be touched on here (Edouart 1835; Oliver 1977; Laughon and Laughon 1984; Laughon and Laughon 1987). He was born in France in 1789, and in 1829 he went to England to find employment. After making intricate pictures with hair, he discovered his talent for silhouette cutting by chance. Edouart apparently cut a silhouette to illustrate to friends that he could, by hand, make a cutout silhouette superior to the tracing machine-made specimen his friends had been admiring. He turned to silhouettes in 1826 and, after enjoying success in Great Britain, set sail for the United States in 1839, where he remained for a decade.

Edouart preferred to cut the whole figure because deportment and dress allowed more of a likeness to be captured. However, Edouart's labels listed prices for cutout busts so he must have cut them, though they are much less common than his full-figure cutouts. Edouart often included personal effects such as eyeglasses or a cane to personalize the portrait. He frequently mounted his silhouettes on lithographed backdrops done by “artists (…not inferior ones)” (Edouart 1835, 13). Edouart was also a meticulous record keeper, writing the name of the sitter and the date and location of the sitting five separate times: on the back of the silhouettes and in various record and index books. He kept duplicate books that contained a copy of every silhouette he cut; like many artists, he folded the paper at least once, with the black side in, before cutting so that two (or more if the paper was folded further) silhouettes were produced, mirror images of each other. One went to the customer and the second went into Edouart's duplicate album. During his 1849 return to England, there was a shipwreck, which Edouart survived, but many of these duplicate albums were lost. The artist died in France in 1861.

Many sources state that Edouart simply looked at the sitter and snipped away. In fact, Edouart drew his subjects with graphite on the white side of the paper. Again, the paper was folded so the black was on the inside, which protected its delicate surface; it was also easier to draw on the white side of paper than on the black. Edouart often painted the edges of his silhouettes with a black medium that appears shinier and distinct from the medium used to coat the paper, a practice that covered the distracting appearance of the white paper core. Though Edouart disparaged “touching” up a cutout silhouette with decoration, he did it not infrequently (Edouart 1835). He decorated more often with chalk or graphite and less with a gold colorant. One finds the detailing much more often on objects made after 1840, when the artist had to compete with photography (Laughon 1997).

Silhouettes do continue to be made today. Helen (b. 1919) and Nel (b. 1946) Laughon from Virginia travel the East Coast cutting traditional shades at local craft fairs, historic homes, and museums. Carol Lebeaux (b. 1924) does the same in New England and is part of a four-member group called SCONE—Silhouette Cutters of New England. The silhouette informs contemporary art as well. Kara Walker (b. 1969) has taken the tradition of the silhouette and has turned it on its head. Whereas historic silhouettes were usually straightforward portraits, Walker has used the silhouetted image, either cut from paper or printed, to illustrate multilayered narratives of slavery and race. Jin Lee (b.1961), an Illinois artist, makes photograms of silhouetted female heads to highlight issues of race, identity, and appearance-based assumptions. Art historian Toby Kamps writes,“Although Lee's works are traditional in form, they also address a thoroughly contemporary set of concerns. … Lee's images also allude to historical attempts to employ photography to categorize, exoticize, or commodify individuals or groups of people” (Lee 1998, 1). Boston-based Randal Thurston (b. 1956) has been cutting forms from black and white paper for 15 years. He is currently exploring scientific anatomical specimens, both real and fantastic, in cut paper layers. Silhouettes no longer just render a likeness. Rather, this familiar format has penetrated the world of contemporary art in fresh and complex ways.


Historically, silhouettes were often kept in albums or scrapbooks. According to Verplanck (1996), by 1700 the practice of keeping albums was common, and it continued into the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Albums started as autograph books that could contain pasted or pinned-in silhouettes and evolved into scrapbooks full of clippings, cuttings, and the occasional silhouette. In the United States, Verplanck found album compilation to be particularly popular among the Quakers. At the time silhouettes were popular, it was certainly possible to acquire blank books and albums commercially. Silhouettists themselves kept albums. As mentioned, Edouart kept copies of his cutouts in albums, though he strongly advised his patrons to frame their silhouettes. He wrote:

The beauty of those Likenesses consists in preserving the dead black, of which the paper is composed, and scratches, rubs, or marks of fingers … take away a great deal. … I advise those who wish to preserve the Likenesses to have them framed as soon as possible (to avoid marring) for those who put them in Scrap-Books, I must forewarn them, it is a practice injurious to cuttings inasmuch as they are too liable to be handled and even destroyed by the rubbing of fingers (Edouart 1835, 13–14).

Not all silhouettes ended up pinned into scrap-books. Because of their inexpensive nature and relative ease of acquisition, and because a sitter often acquired more than one portrait at a time, silhouettes could be given to someone as a memento. For this purpose, silhouettes were kept loose and later housed by the recipient in some fashion. Often loose silhouettes were slipped into the family Bible or a favorite book.

As Edouart advised, many silhouettes were framed and hung on the wall. It was possible to purchase a frame along with the silhouette at the time of the sitting; this option was often featured in a cutter's advertisement. At one end of the spectrum were simple frames such as a rectangular stained wood frame with a simple channel molding or a flat face. Edouart had a framer who used flat maple frames with a gold fillet (Oliver 1977). Embossed brass over wood frames, oval in shape, were mass-produced for silhouettes and miniatures (Adair 1983). A more expensive option might be a wooden frame with a black Japanned finish, gold fillet, oval-shaped domed glass, and decorative brass hanger in a leaf design. Many of the more expensive silhouette types were done by artists who also painted miniatures, so the frames are often the same type as seen on miniatures. Clients could also choose an églomisé, or reverse glass, mat for fancier painted silhouettes. Gilded compo frames with beading were also available. According to an English source on collecting silhouettes, pearwood veneer and papier-mâché frames were commonly used on more elaborate silhouettes (McSwiggan 1997).

Both William Henry Brown and Edouart mounted many of their cutout silhouettes onto lithographed backgrounds. The scenes were of domestic, work, or scenic outdoor spaces. In 1846, Brown published Portrait Gallery of Distinguished American Citizens, which included 26 of the most important of his sitters, including the politicians Daniel Webster, Thomas Hart Benton, John Quincy Adams, and Andrew Jackson. E. B. and E. C. Kellogg of Hartford, Connecticut, well-established lithographers who often printed the backgrounds for Brown's cut silhouettes, made lithographs of the silhouettes for this book. Edouart employed another well-known set of lithographers, Unkles and Klason, to produce his backgrounds. Edouart also hand-drew some of his mounts in styles similar to the lithographs. Other artists such as Hubard and Jarvis Hanks (ca. 1800–after 1852) mounted their cutouts to plain cards and then connected the sitters firmly to the earth with a wash of watercolor to suggest the ground and even a shadow. Other types of mounts encountered were embossed or decoratively painted.

Fancier-style silhouetted images were also abundant in the 18th and 19th centuries. There are wonderful silhouettes sculpted in wax or painted on ivory, plaster, or glass. Silhouettes were painted on ivory and housed in decorative miniature cases. These types of silhouettes were obviously much more labor-intensive and expensive than paper silhouettes. Painted silhouettes decorated jewelry, such as brooches and rings, and snuff boxes. Silhouettes were also found on dishware and on mourning cards.


The techniques used to create silhouettes were extremely varied. The materials ranged from plain, off-white wove paper from which a hollow-cut was fashioned and mounted over a fabric scrap to the patented portable Facietrace machine used by Rembrandt Peale to trace profiles. Little is written about the historic techniques, perhaps because the technology was straightforward and available to anyone with a pair of embroidery scissors and a scrap of paper. However, when silhouettes are examined in-depth, especially those made by trained artists, it becomes clear that their manufacture can be quite involved. All the materials encountered in this project will be systematically presented. Special attention is paid to the black-coated paper used for cutout silhouettes and to tracing devices, two of the most unusual aspects of the craft. The sparse technical information that was found in the literature is also presented.


The paper used to make cutout silhouettes is relatively thin and black on one side, white on the other. Some of the coatings are irregularly or crudely applied, implying application by the artist. Occasionally papers are encountered that are colored throughout. While there is some variation in coatings from silhouette to silhouette, often papers used by different artists appear very similar. Some papers are so uniformly coated with the matte black medium that commercial production is suggested. The confirmation of commercially prepared paper would be revealing about both the economics of silhouette cutting and the business of papermaking. That is, were enough silhouettes being produced to justify a papermaker producing this paper?

The black colorant on the papers is usually a coating sitting on the surface of the paper. The coating is often relatively thick (see below), matte, and opaque, and it appears somewhat dry, as if it is leanly bound. There are very often small chunks of a black material that visually looks like bone black. Bone black is known to be difficult to grind, as opposed to the more fine lamp black, and it is not uncommon to find small chunks of charred bone. The use of bone black was confirmed by analysis, as described below. Occasional brush strokes can be seen on many of the examples.

In 1995 paper conservator Jane Smith undertook a research project at the National Portrait Gallery to investigate the black-coated paper used by Edouart, paper that fell into the category of possibly being commercially produced. Together with Smithsonian Center for Materials Research and Education scientist Walter Hopwood, Smith analyzed samples from three Edouart cutout silhouettes from the National Portrait Gallery's collection (Smith 1995a, b). The Edouart samples that Smith looked at were approximately 30 µm thick. The research revealed that the papers were coated with a combination of pigments and binder. The pigments were a mixture of bone black and Prussian blue with binders of silica and waxes, possibly paraffin and/or beeswax. The adhesive used to affix the cutout silhouette to its secondary support was probably a gum (arabic, ghattti, or tragacanth).

This author had the occasion to show some of the Yale silhouettes to Smith. The Yale Hubard Gallery and Edouart silhouettes appeared very similar to each other and to the Edouart samples that Smith tested from the National Portrait Gallery. To follow up on these observations, while the author was a Morse Fellow at the MFA, five cutout silhouettes that were visually similar to those by Edouart were chosen for analytical testing: four by the Hubard Gallery (1981.472–75)1 and one by Samuel Metford (1810–1890) (1964.1139). The reason for testing was to determine whether the papers used by different artists contained the same components as those found by Smith. If so, this finding would support the idea that the paper was commercially prepared.

MFA conservation scientists Richard Newman and Michele Derrick and the author analyzed the coatings from the five silhouettes using Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy with an attached microscope (FTIR) (table 1). The four coatings from the Hubard Gallery contained bone black, and two had

Table . FTIR Results from Black-Coated Paper Analysis
Prussian blue as well (Prussian blue was used to counter the brown hue of bone black, making the bone black appear blacker). The binders from the Hubard Gallery silhouettes were more difficult to determine using FTIR; some of the samples suggested wax and others suggested protein. Because of the small size of the objects and because preliminary identification of the pigments and binders indicated that the black coatings differed to some extent from those on the Edouart cutouts that Smith tested, it was decided not to resample to determine specific binders using a chromatography technique. The Metford coating was like the National Portait Gallery's examples in that it contained bone black and Prussian blue and was possibly bound with wax. In four of the five samples, gypsum, possibly added as a cheap filler, was also found. Smith did not find gypsum in her samples, but she did find silica, which we did not. The MFA examples differed enough from those from the National Portrait Gallery to suggest that no single commercially produced paper was used by these professional silhouettists.

Documentary evidence for commercial silhouette paper was sought in the examination of trade catalogs at the American Antiquarian Society, with particular attention being paid to stationers' and artists' material trade catalogs from 1800 to 1875.2 While decorative papers, colored tissue, and lightly tinted papers in colors like violet, gray, and fawn were found, this research did not turn up any appropriate black papers. John Krill (1997) of the Winterthur Museum kindly reviewed his research on English artists' supplies from the period 1840–1900 done at the archives of Winsor & Newton and several London museums. He also found no mention of such a paper.

Based on watermark evidence, it is known that Edouart used Whatman paper at least some of the time (Coombs 1999, 2001). Inquiries posed to What-man International Limited about the feasibility that these papers were coated by the manufacturer yielded no concrete answers, but the general consensus from the company was that the Whatman paper company did not do the coating (Ward 2001a, b).

All aspects of cutting silhouettes are discussed in the literature with the exception of paper preparation or acquisition. If artists were preparing the coatings themselves using variations on the bone black and Prussian blue recipe, why is there no mention of this? In the earliest book found on the subject, Introduction to the Art of Cutting Groups of Figures, Flowers, Birds, &c. in Black Paper (1815–16), author Barbara Anne Town-shend simply writes that one should use “thin black paper, either dyed or shiny according to taste” (n.p.). Parenthetically, Townshend also writes that one should cut from the white side of the paper, so she was referring to coated rather than dyed paper. In the 1836 edition, the author states, “The paper best calculated for this use is thin black paper, either dyed black or glazed” (Townshend 1836, 1). Townshend goes on to provide detailed information about how to set up compositions and how to cut figures versus flowers, but the acquisition of paper is mentioned as if it were as easy as a walk to the local stationer.

The availability of commercially coated papers remains unsubstantiated. Regardless, based on visual similarities among papers, the absence of directions for coating paper in the literature, the even and somewhat sophisticated appearance of some of the coatings, and the wide range of paper products available, it is likely that some black-coated papers were commercially available. If so, these papers certainly would have been used by some professional silhouettists whose businesses were busy and profitable enough to afford such paper, while some artists and many amateurs simply coated or colored the paper themselves.

Twentieth-century sources reveal that in 1938 one could acquire a black-coated silhouette paper called “krome kote,” which usually had a white, pregummed verso for affixing the silhouette to a secondary support (Diehl 1938). A number of modern sources referred to “surface paper,” which was described as thin, evenly black on one side, and white on the reverse (Swannell 1929; Leslie 1939). Quimby (1953) suggested that though requesting “silhouette paper” could draw only a blank stare from the clerk at the stationery store, it did exist.

Coated silhouette paper is still available today. It is an American-made product that comes from American Craftlines (1997a, b) and is available through Dick Blick, an artist's supply company (item 2630006). The paper has a matte, rich black surface on one side and is white on the other. This paper was considered a candidate for replacing lost or very degraded hollow-cut backing papers, such as for the Yale University Art Gallery silhouette of Augustus Street (1916.2). In the end, a paper from Light Impressions, TrueCore Card Stock, was chosen instead for the Street silhouette because more was known about it and it was not alum-sized, even though it was thicker than the papers used historically. The Light Impressions paper is acid and lignin-free. Fiber examination showed both cotton and wood; Graff's C-stain indicated there was purified wood and cellulose. Testing with the surface pH electrode meter showed the pH to be near neutral, though Light Impressions lists the pH at 8–9.5. Testing was done with the Tri-test kit, an Abbey pH pen, and a Beckmann Zeromatic SS-3 surface pH electrode meter. The fiber samples were examined with a polarizing light microscope at 65x. (Testing of the American Craftlines paper revealed that it contains purified ground softwood and alum and is slightly alkaline and that the color is not water-soluble. Through personal communication with the company making the paper [American Craftlines 1997a, b], the author was told that the fibers were wood, the sizing was starch, and the coating was a water-based pigment.)


The paper used for hollow-cuts was most often cream-colored and wove, though laid paper was also used. Watermarks, usually only partial because of the small size of the objects, are occasionally encountered. For example, from watermark evidence it is known that the Peale family of artists from Philadelphia consistently used wove paper from the Thomas Amies Mill on a Schuylkill River tributary (Sellors 1948). The author's examination of 89 hollow-cuts by the silhouettist William Chamberlin (1790–1860) at the American Antiquarian Society revealed the use of many different papers; they were all cream, but some were rough while others were smooth, some were thin and others thick. Some, though not all, of the wove papers were machine-made. From the fragmentary watermark evidence, it is also clear that the papers came from various mills. This finding demonstrates again that many silhouettists used whatever was at hand.

That some hollow-cuts were made from laid paper was somewhat surprising. One might think that wove paper, readily available from the 1790s, would have been decidedly more desirable for its more uniform, smooth texture, as it would have been less distracting visually. However, the use of both laid and wove paper simply reinforces that silhouette cutting was a common art; it was practiced by people with widely varying aesthetics and artistic concerns, access to materials, seriousness of endeavor, and financial means.

The backings for hollow-cuts were usually black and often from a household material such as a textile fragment or a scrap of paper. It is common to find backings unattached, that is, the hollow-cuts were simply laid on top of the backings. Some paper backings were matte black while others were very shiny. An occasional blue backing was also found and encountered in the literature (Yale University Art Gallery, 1947.440, 1947.441; Mègroz 1949; Laughon and Laughon 1986). It is not unusual, as well, to find unbacked hollow-cuts that have either been separated from their backings or were never backed.


Overwhelmingly, the dark colorants referred to in the literature were either lamp black or India ink. Although the use is not spelled out, most references refer to colorants used to “paint” a silhouette. Other uses may have included blackening a paper for cutouts or for backing hollow-cuts. One 1835 encyclopedia names India ink as the black of choice for painting silhouettes (Lieber 1835). Silhouette historian Neville Jackson (1938) stated that India ink made with pine soot, beer, or tallow smoke was used. Two other authors suggested that a rich, velvety black was obtainable by the same ingredients of beer mixed with lamp black or soot (Bolton 1914; Quimby 1953). Vernay (1911) cited lamp black specifically as the colorant used by an 1826 silhouettist. It is no surprise that lamp black or India ink were the colorants mentioned repeatedly; they are closely related inks made from carbon black. Historically, lamp black usually referred to carbon black (from various flame sources) and gum arabic, with glycerin added by the 1830s. India or Indian ink was most often described as a mixture of carbon black, gum arabic, and a fish ingredient like isinglass or fish bones, and after a certain date shellac (or another resin). Of course, the ingredients varied from recipe to recipe (Valuable Secrets 1795; Payne 1797; Nash 1810). Prepared dry watercolors were certainly obtainable commercially from the early 18th century, the cake form was available by the late 18th century, and moist pan watercolors were developed around 1815 (Cohn 1977). A source from 1814 recommends an iron gall ink—“a sort of black ink fit for painting figures, and to write upon stuffs, and linen, as well as on paper” containing gallnuts, white wine vinegar, and iron filings, with or without gum arabic—but says the use of iron gall ink on silhouettes is not common (Norman 1814, 82). As with the black-coated paper, it can be deduced from the material evidence that while many 19th-century silhouettists availed themselves of commercial products, many others made the dark colorants themselves, using a wide range of recipes.

Many silhouettes were enhanced by the addition of gouache or ink to add details to the portrait such as eyelashes, hair ribbons, and shirt collars. From their beginning, hollow-cuts were often detailed by inked-in hair and eyelashes, for example. Alternatively, cutout silhouettes were more frequently decorated after 1840 in order to compete with photography. Many artists decorated their silhouettes with graphite, ink, whites (especially for lacy collars), or gold color, the latter called “bronzing” (Roe 1970) or “touching” (Vernay 1911). Sometimes the treatment of the detailing is enough to secure an attribution; for example, William Chamberlin's hollow-cuts have a very consistent and distinctive shirt collar drawn in ink.

The various media used for detailing are diverse. Whites were described in the literature as being done in watercolor and sometimes more specifically in Chinese white (Boehn 1928; Rifken 1987), a form of zinc white that was available commercially around 1834 (Gettens and Stout 1966). Jane Smith found the whites on the National Portrait Gallery Edouart cutout silhouettes she analyzed to be an inorganic silicate similar to kaolin or talc with traces of organic material, so clearly dry white media were also being used (Smith 1995a). Accents in gold were often added in shell gold, which is usually gold powder mixed with gum arabic or egg white to form a watercolor. Shell gold has been available since medieval times (Gettens and Stout 1966; Wehlte 1967). Bronze powder may have been used as well, though less frequently. Bronze powder is a metal flake pigment made from numerous copper alloys, the combinations of which give varying tonalities of gold. Bronze powder has been available for a long time, but only inexpensively from 1860s, a date rather late for silhouettes (Gettens and Stout 1966).


Most of the sources that mention silhouette scissors in any detail date from the 20th century. The one exception, an early-19th-century book on black paper cutting, states that the scissors must have long shanks with short, sharp points (Townshend 1815–16). The 20th-century references stress the importance of choosing good-quality scissors that are slightly loose on the hinge to give the cutter flexibility and dexterity to change direction with ease (Carrick 1928; Simms 1937; Leslie 1939; Dorcy 1944). Specially constructed silhouette scissors were reportedly hard to acquire in this country (Dorcy 1944). Fiskars, a Finnish company that has been making scissors since 1830, reports making special-order silhouette scissors from carbon steel on rare occasions and general paper-cutting scissors more regularly (Linden 1998). Nel Laughon, a silhouette historian and modern-day practitioner, reports that scissors made specifically for silhouette cutting were made in Germany. She also suggests that there was little consistency in silhouette scissors because people used whatever was available to them (Laughon 1997). This observation is no doubt true for amateur silhouettists; people picked up whatever they had at hand. The professional artists, however, had supplies devoted to their trade. The scissors most likely used were those for needlework, as these tended to be small and sharp with long handles relative to the short tips, again for ease of manipulation and for short, well-controlled cuts. Again and again in the literature, embroidery scissors are mentioned, and they were the known choice of Edouart (Bolton 1914; Diehl 1938; Leslie 1939; Piper 1970; Oliver 1977).

That knives were used to do some cutting is well established (Carrick 1928; Dorcy 1944; Rubi 1972). Coke, a silhouette historian, found examples where the cutter had written “Cut with a Knife” on the artwork (Coke 1913, 187), and he proposes that much of early paper cutting, in monasteries in particular, was done with a knife though he does not specify a date for this practice. There are also references to the use of a stiletto, which is an awl or stylus, in combination with scissors (Coke 1913; Roe 1970). Needles were apparently also used for very fine work (Quimby 1953). While it is often possible to tell which side of the paper a silhouette was cut from, based on the edge's curl and compression, it is more difficult to determine what tool was used. In an experiment by the author, a knife and scissors made clean, satisfactory cuts, while a needle tended to drag the paper causing a frayed edge; but perhaps the needles used historically were more suited to the task. Examination of some of the finest cut details in silhouettes of the period does suggest a tool other than scissors must have been used, simply based on the small scale of some details within which it would have been very difficult to manipulate even a pair of very small scissors. It is highly likely that a small knife or sharp needle was often employed at least for details.


One of the most interesting aspects of silhouette history is the mechanical means of capturing a profile.3 The original apparatus, developed in France by Gilles-Louis Chrétien in 1786, was brought to this country in the 1790s by a group of French émigrés. Many of the early tracers were used for capturing a profile for small engravings or to get down the general countenance prior to painting a miniature. Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint-Mémin (1770–1852), for example, used a device called in French a physionotrace for tracing and reducing a profile for portraits and very small engravings (Miles 1994).

The best-known example of a tracing device used in this country was the physiognotrace developed by John Isaac Hawkins. Hoping to promote his invention, Hawkins gave the device to Charles Willson Peale for use in the Peale Museum (Sellors 1948). Peale, a man of many talents and extraordinary energy, opened a museum in Philadelphia in 1785, from which he hoped to fashion a series of national museums for democratic education in arts and sciences. Two more museums in New York and Baltimore eventually opened. The Philadelphia version of the museum was extremely popular and well attended. By 1802, in addition to exhibiting portraits of distinguished Americans, minerals, fossils, a mastodon skeleton, wax figures of Indians, war equipment, and anatomical deformities, Hawkins's physiognotrace was located at one end of the Long Gallery.

Guests could make their own hollow-cuts, or they could get assistance from Moses Williams, a former slave of Charles Willson Peale, who ran the physiognotrace. One broadside for the museum read, “The Profile Cutter attends every day and evening— Frames furnished at the door” (Peale's Museum 1818). Eventually almost all visitors wanted Williams to make the silhouette for them, a service for which he charged eight cents. It should be said that Charles Willson Peale made only a few silhouettes himself, but the family name (or “Peale Museum”) is generically used as an attribution for these objects, as often the actual cutter is not known. Williams cut from 1802 until approximately 1813, and at least two others worked the physiognotrace after Williams— Elizabeth Hampton and Elizabeth Meigs (National Portrait Gallery Curatorial File; Reese n.d.).

According to Peale, having one's silhouette taken by the device was the rage from 1802 to 1805, and it remained fashionable through the first decade of the 19th century (Miller 1988). After that time, enthusiasm waned somewhat, though silhouettes made with tracing devices remained moderately popular until supplanted by the camera in the 1840s.

John Hawkins's machine differed from Chrétien's and others in that it traced around the actual face with a small bar (an “index” made of brass) connected to a pantograph that simultaneously reduced the silhouette to less than 2 in. Examination of a reproduction of the physiognotrace in the exhibition The Peale Family: Creation of an American Legacy, 1770–1870, at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1997, revealed that the opening where the paper fit in was about 4 × 4 in. It was not uncommon for four hollow-cuts to be done at one time by folding the paper twice (Sellors 1948; Miller 1997a), and hollow-cuts exist that have never been cut apart. Peale explained his device (fig. 6) in a letter to Thomas Jefferson in January 1803:

The person to be traced, setting in a Chair, rests their head on the concave part, and the hollow of the board below imbraces the shoulder. The Physiognotrace is fixed to the board, A at a, and in the center of the joint b, is a conic steel point with a spring to press it against the paper. … This index moving round to trace any subject that the edge is kept too, as it moves, the steel point of the upper joint, gives a diminished size a perfectly correct representation (quoted in Miller 1988, vol. 2, pt. 1: 481–82).

Though Hawkins and the Peales tried to protect the physiognotrace from being copied through patents, there were many versions being used all over the East Coast, some of which predated Hawkins's. Benes writes, “Scores of portraitists, artists-entrepreneurs, and mechanicians rushed to take advantage of the popularity of cheap, machine-made profiles” (1994, 139). Many contraptions were very similar, though their users made fraudulent claims of improvements over Hawkins's patented version, while others were truly different. Some used optical projection, like the camera obscura, to capture a profile on paper that, while being traced, was reduced with an attached pantograph at the same time. This operation had the advantage that the sitter was not “scraped with the machine” (Benes 1994, 141), as happened when the brass index of Hawkins's machine passed over one's features. One such invention is described below:

The operator placed the sitter in a darkened room and projected the profile against a paper-covered pane of glass by means of a single light source positioned at the far end of a five-foot “trunk” or box. The pantograph traced the sitter's shadow … the other end traced a smaller image on a sheet of paper (Benes 1994, 140).

Fig. 6. The drawing and text of a letter sent by Charles Willson Peale to Thomas Jefferson, January 28, 1803. Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Though “physiognotrace” was the commonly used term for tracing mechanisms, there were other names for the various inventions, including the Ediograph, Limomachia, Pasigraph, Prosopographus, Profilograph, Charles Schmalcalder's Delinator, Copier, Proportionometer, and William King's “patent delineating pencil.”

When examining hollow-cuts, it is often possible to find evidence of a tracing apparatus. Either a graphite or metal tip was used, and often traces of graphite or indented lines from a stylus are visible along the outline of the face. However, since the profiles were cut after tracing, evidence of the tracing tip has often been trimmed away. Also, since multiple hollow-cuts were made at once, frequently it is only the top piece of paper that bears the evidence. Hollow-cuts have another characteristic that can reveal their traced roots: they tend to be more generically and formulaically handled than other silhouette types, a characteristic that becomes apparent after looking at silhouettes even briefly.


The professional silhouettists like Edouart, Metford, Hubard, and the Peales often employed a stamp or label to identify their silhouettes. For example, the silhouettes cut at one of the Peale museums or by one of the Peale sons traveling with a physiognotrace were often stamped with one of three blind stamps, the most common being “MUSEUM” (fig. 7). “PEALE'S MUSEUM” and “PEALE” were the other stamps used, the former with an eagle bearing outspread wings.

Fig. 7. Detail of figure 2, showing “MUSEUM” blind stamp. Photograph taken by the author while the Claire W. and Richard P. Morse Fellow in Paper Conservation

Most of the time these stamps can be relied upon, but, like any artist's signature or identifying mark, there are some that are not what they purport to be. For example, Yale has a hollow-cut bust silhouette on beige machine-made wove paper and backed with an unattached black textile. The sitter is George Washington (Yale University Art Gallery, 1945.260). Underneath the bust, there is a blind stamp of an eagle with outstretched wings and the words “PEALE'S MUSEUM” under that. The hollow-cut paper measures 14.9 × 12.7 cm. This silhouette is a 1920s forgery; there are numerous examples of this forgery, with slight variations but sharing certain telling characteristics. The silhouettes are almost twice as large as an authentic Peale silhouette, and all have the embossed stamp first used by Rubens Peale in New York from 1825 to 1837. The stamp was acquired in the 1920s by New York antique-store owners Mr. and Mrs. Collins, and it is believed that the Collinses forged many Washington hollow-cuts. The stamp's placement on the forgeries is lower, and because the silhouettes are bigger, the stamp is smaller relative to the hollow-cut; on the authentic silhouettes the stamp is as wide as the base of the silhouette. The silhouette has other features that are similar to other fakes and distinguish it from real Peale silhouettes: the broadness of the cutting, the handling of the queue ribbons, the straight nose, and the undefined collar. That is, the cutting is less delicate and more generic (National Portrait Gallery Curatorial File; Laughon and Laughon 1986; Miller 1997b). Another reason for skepticism about the Washington silhouettes is due to the variations seen in the fakes; if the silhouettes were mass-produced for sale at the Peale Museums as mementos of Washington, they would likely all be the same. Nor is it insignificant that the figure is of national importance and the silhouette is “by” a famous name. Only these high-end fakes could command a price worth the effort in such a “cheap” art.

Some labels tell more than simply the artist, the location and the price. Some, like those of Hubard, are particularly enlightening. Consider these two: “Cut with common Scissors, BY MASTER HUBARD, (aged 13 years) Without Drawing or Machine” (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1981.475) and “This curious and much admired Art of cutting out Likenesses with common Scissors, (without drawing or machine) originated in this Establishment, in 1822” (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1981.473). They remind the viewer both that the artist was a child prodigy and that he did not rely on a machine to make his portraits. This latter point is an important distinction. Many of the freehand artists felt their profiles were superior to and quite distinct from hollow-cuts done with a tracing device.

One need not rely only on labels, stamps, and the occasional signature to assign attributions. Stylistic differences are often readily apparent. For example, Edouart left us many telltale signs of his work. The men usually have slit buttonholes and cutaway collars with a piece of white paper inserted underneath. The figures' feet are usually long, thin, and dangling. As mentioned, Chamberlin had a signature collar he both cut and then drew on. Often the way the base of the bust of a hollow-cut is handled can be a clue. Certain artists cut a small notch in the bust or shaped it in a characteristic way. For all the talk of the mass production or cheapness of this art, many of the silhouettists, like other artists, had individual styles. Still, there are thousands of silhouettes crafted by now unknown people, perhaps the sitter's sister, perhaps a traveling profilist or sign and banner painter.


Many silhouettes present condition problems that reflect their histories of being stored improperly. Tears, creases, and missing pieces are common to paper silhouettes. The coated papers are vulnerable to mechanical damage and abrasion. Efflorescence of the wax component of the coating can occur, but this can often be locally addressed with the use of minimal moist heat. Some silhouettes have holes from pinning, though the pins are usually missing. This type of evidence should be preserved as it tells how the object was originally or formerly presented. Some backing papers are missing from hollow-cuts. Since nearly the entire effect of these hollow-cuts is lost without their backing paper, it is worth replacing even with a modern paper (see above). Weeping glass can be present in historic frames. Whether this glass should be replaced (and retained) is a decision that must be made in consultation with the owner or curator. Historic framing materials can usually be retrofitted to minimize damage to the paper object by using acid-free materials and by lining the rabbet, for example, without sacrificing the integrity of the original package. All trade labels should be carefully preserved as well, because they provide essential information about the cutter.


Silhouettes played an important role in portraiture in the United States in the last decades of the 18th century through the mid-19th century, and they continue to be made today, though far less frequently. Paper silhouettes were an economically reasonable alternative to portraits painted in oil and portrait miniatures. For many, silhouettes were the first type of portraiture available to them: the price was within reach, the artists traveled to their areas, the medium was popular as well as fashionable, and, in many cases, the silhouette remains as the sole portrait of an individual. The materials used reflect well the vast array of people making silhouettes. This technical investigation gives substance to the impression that silhouette cutting was a widespread popular art produced by many types of artists and others from the broadest range of materials.


1. With silhouettes bearing the name of Master Hubard, it is safest to assign them to the Hubard Gallery, as it is difficult to determine who did the actual cutting, unless the silhouette is clearly early (and then it is by Master Hubard). Hubard, born in England ca. 1807, began cutting at or around the age of 13. After creating a stir in the British Isles as a child prodigy, he came to New York in 1824 with a Mr. Smith, Hubard's sponsor who ran the “Gallery of Cuttings and Panharmonicum.” The gallery was a collection of various paper silhouettes by Hubard of people, animals, architecture, etc., and the Panharmonicum was reputed to be a musical mechanism that could play 206 instruments. In 1825 the show went to Boston; the Gallery of Cuttings and Panharmonicum was advertised regularly in Boston papers until April 1826.Hubard was probably no longer associated with Smith and the gallery after January 1828. The Gallery of Cuttings and Panharmonicum continued on. Master Hanks took over that same year, and it is likely that Hanks left by 1829. There was apparently a group of young cutters associated with the gallery, so again, a Hubard Gallery attribution is the most secure way to assign these works. Many thanks to the Laughons for telling me about cutters other than Hanks and Hubard (Laughon and Laughon 1997).The Hubard Gallery cutout silhouettes are made from matte, black-coated, white wove paper mounted to a secondary support, often a card. The gallery produced full-length and bust silhouettes. The full-length silhouettes on card often have a watercolor wash including a shadow underneath the sitter. Not infrequently, the silhouettes were modestly decorated with a gold colorant to emphasize buttons, collars, etc.

2. The stationers' and artists' material catalogs examined at the American Antiquarian Society included Cotton, Boston, 1830, 1839, and 1850; M. J. Whipple, Boston, 1851; Frost and Adams, Boston, 1875; Gibbs Brothers, Holyoke, Mass., n.d.; Wheeler and Whitney, Boston, ca. 1860; Marshall A. Lewis Co., n.d.; H. Cohen, Philadelphia, 1859; N. E. News Company, Boston, 1873; John E. Pettybone, Chicago, n.d.; Corlies Macy and Co., New York, 1874; Louis Snider, Cincinnati, n.d.; Willy Wallachs, New York, 1874. I am grateful to Judy Walsh for pointing me in the direction of the AAS.

3. For an excellent discussion of tracing machines, see Miles 1994 and Benes 1994. Benes includes a useful index of artists and dates with the names of the tracing devices they used.


Sincere thanks are due to many people who were helpful with this project: Cliff Ackley, Robert Baldwin, Georgia Barnhill, Craigen Bowen, Matt Cutler, Michele Derrick, Sarah Dove, Anne Driesse, Margaret Holben Ellis, Manfred Engeli, Theresa Fairbanks, Elizabeth Fairman, Eugene Farrell, Richard Field, Betty Fiske, Robin Jaffe Frank, Robin Hanson, Dana Hemmenway, Lisa Hodermarsky, John Krill, Helen and Nel Laughon, Carol Lebeaux, Annette Manick, Lance Mayer, Lillian Miller, Erica Mosier, Gay Myers, Richard Newman, Gisela Noack, Debbie Hess Norris, Roy Perkinson, Sue Welsh Reed, William Robinson, Edward Saywell, Gwendolyn Dubois Shaw, Helen Sheumaker, Jane Smith Stewart, Miriam Stewart, Neville Thomson, Teri Vienot, Ann Wagner, Judy Walsh, Jenna Webster, and Virginia Whelan. I am also indebted to Daniel Abramson for his patient assistance and encouragement.


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TrueCore Card Stock for backing hollow-cuts, item 7670

Light Impressions P.O. Box 22708 Rochester, N.Y. 14692–2708


PENLEY KNIPE has a B.A. in anthropology from St. Lawrence University (1987) and an M.S. from Winterthur Museum/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation (1997). She was an advanced-level intern at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies at the Harvard University Art Museums in 1997–98 and the Claire W. and Richard P. Morse Fellow in Paper Conservation at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1998–99. Since the fall of 1999 she has been an assistant conservator of works of art on paper in the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. Address: Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard University Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street, Cambridge, Mass. 02138; e-mail: knipe@fas.harvard.edu.

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