Large Silhouette Conversation Piece

Circa 1840


Silhouette conversation pieces are always special and this one is certainly no exception. It depicts a mother with her seven children gathered around her. The father is not present – perhaps he was off on a military campaign or away on business.

Left to right the family comprises: the eldest daughter, looking sophisticated with her hair swept back in a plaited knot with long side ringlets, is holding the musical score for her little brother who, wearing a tunic, white pantaloons and heeled boots, is perching on an upholstered stool and is playing the violin; overlooking him is another teenage daughter, her hair looped and swept back, she holds a very cute little dog under her arm; behind her are two younger girls in matching dresses both reaching out towards the baby with bare feet being nursed by the mother as she sits comfortably in a bergere armchair; and finally, the eldest boy standing protectively behind his mother’s chair with a walking cane in his hand.

The silhouette is painted on card with gum arabic used to highlight the details of the clothes and gilding for the gold jewellery and for everyone’s hair, including that of the dog. The dress collars and frills are delicately painted in transparent white.

The unpainted area has some age-browning (though it’s not as intrusive as the images perhaps suggests) with some scattered spotting. The right hand edge of the paper is slightly wrinkled along the frame edge. Overall though the piece is in good condition.

Frame: Original flat profile birds’ eye maple veneer.

Item Ref. 4862

Size: 535 x 642mm (21 x 25¾")