Pair of Profiles by Augustin Edouart

Each signed and dated 1832


A handsome pair of silhouette profiles by the highly esteemed nineteenth century cutter, Augustin Edouart (1789-1861). Both are depicted seated on Georgian dining chairs: the gentleman, in a tail-coat, breeches and dainty shoes with bows, sits with both hands clasped around his cane; and, his wife, wearing a soft-top bonnet tied under her chin, is holding her spectacles in one hand and a book in the other.

The silhouettes are cut out and are set against sepia watercolour backgrounds depicting an interior with a side table and fringed drape behind the gentleman and a cloth-covered round table bearing ink pots and paper before the lady. At her feet is propped a large folio volume, perhaps one of the artist’s own archive volumes that he may have used to demonstrate his talent before being given this commission.

Both silhouettes are signed and dated on the obverse – ‘Augn Edouart fecit 1832’ a period when Edouart was based in Scotland and producing some of his finest work. The profiles are also both backed with the artist’s circular trade label that advertises full-length sitting profiles at a cost of 7 shillings. regrettable they are not inscribed so the identity of the couple is unknown. They are set in the original bird’s eye maple veneer frames with gilt slips as supplied by the artist at the time.

When originally hung, it’s clear that the gentleman was hanging closer to the window as the background card has darkened whereas the lady’s profile remains bright. Despite this, it is desirable to continue to keep the pair together especially given that they are smaller in size than Edouart’s standard full-length work.

As an ex-Bonapartist claiming asylum in Britain, Augustin Edouart set himself up as a shopkeeper in Cheltenham specialising in French and fancy goods but unfortunately the enterprise was declared bankrupt in May 1826 and he needed to find an alternative way to support his family. Quite by chance he discovered, when challenged by a friend at a dinner-party, that he had a natural aptitude for cutting likenesses out of paper, so much so that he thereafter made a successful career of it. He toured extensively throughout the British Isles for several years cutting many thousands of profiles including well-known figures of the day, many of them authors, musicians, politicians and even royalty. In 1839 he set sail for America where he toured successfully for ten years before deciding to retire to his native France. He nearly didn’t make it though as his ship went down in a storm off Guernsey. Fortunately the passengers were all rescued but Edouart lost virtually the whole of his precious archive of work and the will to continue to work commercially.

Item Ref. 5347

Size: 273 x 250mm (10¾ x 9⅞")