Antique Profile by J.H. Gillespie Backed by Original Trade Label
  • Handsome profile by James H. Gillespie who worked in England, United States and Canada. Gillespie worked in several styles including a plain black painted silhouette with gum arabic highlights to a full color watercolor miniature portrait. He crossed the ocean from England to Canada in the 1820s and soon worked his way into the United States where he worked along the Eastern seaboard until 1842 when he moved back to Canada where he continued as an itinerant artist until at least 1849. My friends Suzanne Rudnick Payne and Michael Payne published an excellent article for which you can find a link at the bottom of this listing. They detail his six different styles of painting.

    Gillespie’s work is highly collected and this is a very nice profile in his Style 3 which the Paynes describe this way:

    Style 3: White face on black background--profiled face shows the features carefully modeled using pencil, ink, and grey wash watercolor details. The painted grey-black (carefully painted with no brushstrokes) provides contrast. Sitter's clothing is depicted in a grey-black that is either slightly lighter or darker than the background. Thick gum arabic highlights the clothing with a very think line of gum arabic defining the bust. This monochromatic style appears to be the portrait that Gillespie advertised as "in imitation of Copper-Plate busts." These portraits sold for 5 shillings while he was working in England.”

    The reverse of this original frame still bears the Gillespie’s trade label (of what the Paynes describe as “the A type”). The label says “LIKENESSES DRAWN IN ONE MINUTE BY J.H. GILLESPIE PROFILE PAINTER”. Although the trade label has darkened and has some small losses, it is really in very good condition for almost 200 years of being on a frame back and rubbing against everything. Condition of the profile is excellent with just a few very minor white spots where the edge of the frame rabbet scratched the black painted background. The original papier maché frame measures 5 ½” x 4 3/8”. A beautiful profile by a well-listed artist. Circa 1830.

    #5275    Sale Pending

    Please see the Silhouettist Bios page for more information about James H. Gillespie.

    Reference: Payne, Suzanne Rudnick and Payne, Michael R., "Six Choices for the Sitter, James H. Gillespie (1793-after 1849), Antiques & Fine Art Magazine(Summer/Autumn 2008), 200, (online article at