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Item Ref. 4897

G. SEIGNEUX, 18th century

France has long been associated with the art of cutting silhouettes and is credited with giving us the very term "silhouette" derived reportedly from the name of Louis XV's finance minister, Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), a man renowned for his stringent economic measures as well as his hobby of cutting profiles. Despite its diminutive size, this finely cut conversation piece is well detailed and depicts an aristocratic family enjoying various leisure activities. The elegantly dressed older gentleman is seated on a caned chair reading a book. His wife, in a ruffled dress, handkerchief cap and high heel shoes, sits opposite him spinning wool on a spindle and distaff. Their son, leaning on the back of her chair, is holding a flute.

The silhouette is mostly cut with watercolour additions for the frills, the caning on the chairbacks, and the finer parts of the spindle. The grey and mauve painted swags are held in place with three grotesque heads adding a wonderful touch of humour. The silhouette is signed (hidden by the rebate) with an inscribed verse placed within a cut border. The source of the verse is as yet untraced so it may even be original.

Ne jamais vous quitter est mon bonheur supreme:
Je cherche a imiter par ce léger embleme
la mitie qui munit par des chaines de fleurs
Des ma plus tendre enfance au plus digne des coeurs.

The silhouette has some light age browning but is otherwise in fine condition. It is housed in a period carved giltwood frame.

Size: framed, 7 x 9" (190 x 226mm)

SO L D !

Despite being an extremely talented cutter, G. Seigneux appears to be unrecorded. In her Dictionary Mrs Jackson lists an eighteenth century artist named Seigneur who cut profiles of Monsieur and Madame Sévery and of Gibbon the historian. This is probably the same person.

French cut silhouette conversation piece

French cut silhouette conversation piece

Detail from a cut and painted silhouette by G. SeigneuxArtist's signature


Rare silhouette painted on glass by Thomas Johnson of Harrogate

Trade laebl for T. Johnson of Harrogate

Item Ref. 4928

THOMAS JOHNSON, active 1780s/1790s

This is a silhouette by a rarely seen artist whose work is known from only a small handful of extant silhouettes bearing his trade label. This example depicts an unnamed lady with her hair in a loop at the back (a style known as a banging chignon). She is wearing a dress with a fichu and a striking tall hat decorated with coquettes and trimmed with ribbon at the back. These hats were fashionable during the early 1790s.

The silhouette is reverse painted on flat glass in solid black with thinned pigment used to create some transparency for the fichu and the hat ribbons. A needle has been used to scratch detail into the hair. The profile has then been backed with a second piece of glass coated in gesso. This gives it a greenish-grey hue. It is housed in the original brass-faced frame with the artist's trade label on the reverse. There is a small area of paint loss on the bottom edge and, as the silhouette has not been opened, there is some dirt on the underside and edges of the glass.

Size: framed, 4 v 4" (122 x 103mm)
Provenance: Sotheby's, 30 May 1977 - lot 4

SO L D !

Thomas Johnson was working towards the end of the eighteenth century in Harrogate, a popular North Yorkshire spa town where visitors came to take the waters. He would therefore have been guaranteed a fashionable clientèle.

Item Ref. 4953

AUSTRO-GERMAN SCHOOL early 19th century

This jewellery piece holds an early 19th century silhouette of a gentleman. The detailing to the profile include strands of wavy hair, a bushy eyebrow and an eyelash. The profile is reverse painted on flat glass in black against a gold background within an attractive floral border.

The silhouette is set in the original gilt metal pendant frame with a solid back. Internally the frame has been padded out with card bearing German text.

Size: framed, 34mm diameter

Price: £180

Continental jewllery silhouette in a oendant frame


Painted silhouette of Eliza Mercy Cotton

Item Ref. 4865

Attributed to GEORGE ATKINSON, active 1806-1826

This lovely young lady is identified by a label on the reverse as Eliza Mercy Cotton. Eliza is depicted in a wide-shouldered dress with voluminous sleeves, a style that was fashionable from about 1825. She wears a long gold chain and drop earrings and her hair is drawn up in a plaited knot with soft curls round her face.

Eliza was born in 1818, the daughter of Frederick Silver, a dissenting minister of de Crespigny Park in Surrey. She married Hugh Powell Cotton and had at least seven children born between 1839 and 1851. The family lived in Mortlake in London and also had a property, presumably a summer residence, in Seaway, Cockington in Devon.

The silhouette is painted on card and is finely gilded. It is attributed on stylistic grounds, in particular the bust-line finish, to George Atkinson. It is housed in a beautiful flat profile bird's eye maple veneer frame with a gilt slip. Excellent condition.

Size: framed, 8 x 7" (210 x 183mm)

Price: £235

Although recorded as working mainly in Brighton and London, George Atkinson is known to have also spent time working in Devon. In addition to painting profiles he worked as a drawing master. Critics have compared his work favourably with that of John Field.

Item Ref. 4675

BRITISH SCHOOL, 1820s

This large full-length silhouette depicts a young lady seated on a bar-back dining chair, one arm resting on a pedestal table on which sits a quill pen in an ink well and a sheet of writing paper. But instead of writing her letter, the young lady has been distracted by the book she is holding. She is wearing a high-waisted dress with a deep frill-edged collar and wide droopy sleeves.

The silhouette is painted in shades of black with Chinese white highlights. It is presented in a stained bird's eye maple frame with an overpainted gilt slip.

Size: framed, 15 x 123/8" (383 x 315mm)

Price: £320

Painted silhouette of a young lady seated by a table

Finely painted silhouette of a lady

Inscription on the reverse

Item Ref. 4784

GEORGE ANGELO CROWHURST, active 1827-1844

This is a striking and colourful watercolour silhouette depicting a lady, Mary Jane Nicholl-Carne, seated in a handsome 17th century style carved oak and upholstered open armchair with scrolled arms and a wavy X-frame low-stretcher. With her hair draped over her ears and swept back in a plaited knot with two long ringlets, she is wearing a blue narrow-waisted dress with a lace collar and bell-sleeves with half sleeves underneath ending in a lace-trimmed cuff. She is holding a book and resting her arm on a splendid carved side table with baluster ring turned legs.

The silhouette is inscribed on the reverse: 'Mary Jane Nicholl-Carne / St Donats Castle / Glamorgan'.

Mary Jane was born around 1824, the daughter of Peter Whitfield Bracker of Liverpool. She married Dr John Whitlock Nicholl Carne, a Welsh landowner, magistrate and barrister. They lived at St Donats Castle, reputedly spending 30K restoring forty-two of the seventy rooms. They had three sons, the eldest born in 1849, and six daughters.

The silhouette is painted in watercolour heightened with gum arabic and with gilding used on her hair and on the books. It is unsigned and is attributed to Crowhurst on stylistic grounds. The silhouette has tight margins and so the tip of the chair and the tail of the dress are both concealed by the frame. The background card has very sight surface rubbing bottom right. The silhouette is presented in a bird's eye maple frame with gilt slip.

Size: framed, 10 x 13" (275 x 330mm)

Price: £340

George Angelo Crowhurst worked mostly in and around the popular resort of Brighton. Some of his profiles were cut, others were painted and the use of colour, especially Wedgwood blue, is a known characteristic of his work.

Item Ref. 4473

JOHN M. A. TUCKER, 1850

LOST on Monday between Old Town Street & Union St,
a purse containing sovereigns...

This unusual silhouette is a posthumous portrait of William Tucker town crier of Plymouth, a position he held for thirty-five years. Dressed in his regalia of gilt-edged cloak and tricorn hat, and carrying two bells, he would have a prominent figure on the streets. On this particular day he is advertising the lose of a purse containing sovereigns. No doubt there would have been a reward offered for its safe return.

A bell man or town crier spread the news at a time when many people could not read newspapers. The tradition dates back to the sixteenth century when Chester's first bell man was paid one penny for 'going for anything that is lost' and four pennies for leading a funeral procession. An article in the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette on 12 July 1828 records how the town crier (possibly William Tucker) gave notice that Henry Broom (described as "a wretch in human shape") was intending to auction his wife. He subsequently sold her for one pound, much to the crowd's anger and a riot broke out.

The silhouette is painted and has a watercolour border. It is signed and dated August 1850 on the reverse. The artist was probably a relative of the sitter. The silhouette is also inscribed along the bottom edge - WILLIAM TUCKER / Died Novr 1st, 1848. Aged 79. Being Town crier of the Borough of Plymouth 35 Years. The silhouette is set in the original dark wood frame.

watercolour inscription on a painted silhouette of the Plymouth town crier

Size: framed, 147/8 x 133/8" (380 x 338mm)

Price: £550

Painted silhouette of the Plymouth town crier

Signature on the reverse

Painted silhouette of the Plymouth town crier


Painted silhouette of Eliza Mercy Cotton

Item Ref. 4865

Attributed to GEORGE ATKINSON, active 1806-1826

This lovely young lady is identified by a label on the reverse as Eliza Mercy Cotton. Eliza is depicted in a wide-shouldered dress with voluminous sleeves, a style that was fashionable from about 1825. She wears a long gold chain and drop earrings and her hair is drawn up in a plaited knot with soft curls round her face.

Eliza was born in 1818, the daughter of Frederick Silver, a dissenting minister of de Crespigny Park in Surrey. She married Hugh Powell Cotton and had at least seven children born between 1839 and 1851. The family lived in Mortlake in London and also had a property, presumably a summer residence, in Seaway, Cockington in Devon.

The silhouette is painted on card and is finely gilded. It is attributed on stylistic grounds, in particular the bust-line finish, to George Atkinson. It is housed in a beautiful flat profile bird's eye maple veneer frame with a gilt slip. Excellent condition.

Size: framed, 8 x 7" (210 x 183mm)

Price: £235

Although recorded as working mainly in Brighton and London, George Atkinson is known to have also spent time working in Devon. In addition to painting profiles he worked as a drawing master. Critics have compared his work favourably with that of John Field.

Item Ref. 4935

RICHARD JORDEN active circa 1779-1785

This eighteenth century silhouette depicts a fashionable lady named by a label on the reverse as Catherine Simpson. She is wearing a dress with a frilled bodice and a lovely wide-brimmed hat trimmed with ribbon and with "lace curtains". This style of hat was popular during the mid 1780s. Her hair has been drawn back and looped in a distinctive "banging chignon" secured with a ribbon bow.

Catherine Simpson was born in 1745. Genealogical records show that she was buried in a Presbyterian cemetery in Leicester on 1 April 1835 having reached the grand age of ninety.

The profile is reverse-painted on flat glass and is backed with a second piece of glass coated with gesso which creates a greenish-grey background hue. It is housed in the original pressed brass frame which has been over-painted with a small area of restoration to the beaded border.

Size: framed, 4 x 4" (120 x 100mm)

S O L D !

Biographical details are obscure for brothers Walter & Richard Jorden who both painted silhouettes on glass in a distinctive style. From inscriptions on known examples of their work it is known that they worked in Wales, Dorset, London and Durham. They had a distinguished clientele.

Silhouette on glass by Richard Jorden


Hollow-cut silhouette by Sarah Harrington

Item Ref. 4937

SARAH HARRINGTON active 1772-1787

This is a most attractive hollow-cut silhouette of a young lady wearing a wide-brimmed hat tilted forwards with ribbons streamers at the back. She also has a ribbon necklace tied in a neat bow at the nape of her neck. The style of her hat and necklace dates the portrait to the early to mid 1770s.

Very few British artists favoured the hollow-cut method in the late 18th century and this profile has all the hallmarks of Mrs Harrington's early work including the defined eyelash and the shape of the bust-line. It is set in brass-faced frame with a twisted rope design and a crenellated inner border. The frame has been over-painted in black; this was sometimes carried out as a mourning ritual when the sitter in a portrait died.

Size: framed, 53/8 x 4" (140 x 110mm)

 

Mrs Sarah Harrington was well-educated and supported the education of women, even giving geography lessons to young ladies. It appears that she took up silhouette cutting in later life and over a period of twelve to fourteen years worked in all the major English cities, successfully patenting her method of producing profiles in 1775. Early examples of her work were never signed.

Price: £300


Item Ref. 4240

JOHN MIERS, 1758-1821

This is an eighteenth century silhouette of a gentleman wearing a 'physical' wig, a style of wig much favoured by the professional and learned gentlemen of the day and which dates the profile to around 1770.

The silhouette is painted on ivory and is signed Miers under the bust-line. It is set in the original ebonised frame.

Framed size: 4 x 4" (120 x 105mm)

Price: £320

Although he never trained professionally, John Miers is considered to be the finest of the 18th century silhouettists. His career began in Leeds when he took over his father's business as a coach-painter & gilder. Having recently married, Miers was keen to expand the business and, in addition to preparing and selling paints, he advertised profile shades in miniature for 2s. 6d. each. He clearly excelled at this from the start as within a few years this had become his main line of business and prompted Miers to move his family first to Edinburgh and eventually to London where he ran a busy and successful studio at the Strand.

John Miers, silhouette on ivory


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Cynthia McKinley
Wigs on the Green Fine Art, York
Tel. +44 (0)1904 794711             Mobile: 07962 257915
Email: enquiries@wigsonthegreen.co.uk