Done by an Automaton



The Morning Chronicle of 25 July 1820 praised the “triumph of mechanism” that was the Automaton Artist (also known as PROSOPOGRAPHUS) that was being exhibited at Burlington Arcade in London. Just to view the mechanism cost 1s; to have a likeness taken cost a further 1s 6d. It was proclaimed as the only Automaton in the world to take likenesses!

By 1829, when this likeness was taken, the Automaton Artist was on tour and still heralded as a novelty and a marvel. The Plymouth & Exeter Gazette (2  May 1829) even published a five-verse poem credited to ‘WHIM’ about the experience of having a likeness taken by the contraption.

How with mirth in their eyes
Must they grin with surprize
To behold, while they cried “sure the devil is in it”
That the branch of a tree
A good limner can be
And would sketch all their ugly old pates in a minute.

Far though from being “an ugly old pate”, this lady has an elegant profile with her hair upswept and secured by a comb and with curls arranged over her forehead. The inscription beneath her reads ‘done by an Automaton’ with the date 1829.

The silhouette is housed in a giltwood frame with an unusual stencilled paint effect finish. This has some rubbing and small loss commensurate with age.

Item Ref. 3353

Size: framed, 164 x 128mm (6½ x 5")