Birds & Flowers

Cut Paper


The art of paper-cutting was a popular pursuit during the late eighteenth century amongst accomplished ladies and, whilst most favoured cutting individual profiles of friends and family, others were more adventurous creating scenes and decorative pieces. Also known as decoupage (from the French) or scherenschnitte (from the German), the art of paper cutting was particularly popular in continental Europe with Marie Antoinette known to have tried her hand. Two of George III’s daughters, Princess Charlotte and Princess Elizabeth, were also adept at paper-cutting, the latter creating an album of delicately cut scenes to illustrate the poem “The Birth & Triumph of Cupid”.

Tiny sharp scissors and pointed quill knives were used to cut the paper with great delicacy. Before black paper was commercially available, cutters often blackened their own paper using soot mixed with beer.

This small masterpiece is cut from paper that is black on one side only and shows a delicate and intricate arrangement of tiny flowers and trailing foliage with an urn and a bird. The whole is enclosed within a cut paper border. Remarkably the entire picture has been cut from a single sheet of paper without breaks.

Sadly there is no clue as who created this piece. It was discovered preserved within the pages of an eighteenth century book and so, apart from one tiny break in the border and a few twisted leaves (only visible under magnification), it has remained in fine condition. It is currently loosely laid on card and has been housed in a period maple veneer frame with a gilt slip.

Item Ref. 6179

Size: framed, 216mm (8½") square