Silhouettes

Antique American Silhouette Pair from Peale's Museum
  • I recently bought several silhouette busts from a long-time Southern collection. The collection included some surprises as I took them out of frames for cleaning. These silhouettes are a great opportunity to add to your collection or buy as holiday gifts at good prices.

    The collector hung these as a pair, and, although they have different last names I do believe they are related and will sell them as a pair. They are from one of the Peales and stamped with the stamp that says “PEALE’S MUSEUM” under a spread eagle. We don’t know which of the Peale’s used this stamp. It might have been the stamp that Ruben Peale used at the New York museum or possibly the stamp of Rembrandt Peale from the Baltimore museum. It is doubtful that this stamp was used at the Philadelphia museum but that, too is possible. You might know that a couple of antiques dealers known only as Mr. & Mrs. Collins found this original stamp in the early 20th century and set about making hundreds, if not thousands, of fake Peale silhouettes. You should know how to tell the difference between the fake and the real silhouettes and we invite you to check out the biography of Peale on the Silhouettist Bios page (link at the bottom of the listing). These two silhouettes are real, 19th century silhouettes with the paper being the correct size, the stamp being tucked right up under the bust termination and the quality that the Collins could never come close to reproducing. Every silhouette collection should have at least one silhouette from the Peale Museum and these are great.

    The woman has a period inscription identifying her as “Hannah Walker”. The man has an inscription, by what appears to be the same hand, identifying him as “Benjamin Moore”. The man’s inscription was written on the backside of the paper so that the Peale’s Museum stamp is backward if the inscription shows. The previous collector chose to display the silhouette without the inscription—I have chosen to turn him so that his name shows but the stamp is backwards. It’s an easy change if you’d rather it the other way. I don’t know the relation between the two but that would make a nice genealogy research project for the new owner.

    The silhouettes are housed in period cushioned wood frames of original size, with splined corners. They are each placed on what appears to be old photographed that have been lacquered over the part that the silhouette paper touches. This will keep the acid from the wood backing from degrading the silhouettes. The frame openings are slightly larger than the silhouette paper so that a bit of the photo card shows at top and bottom. But the cards are nearly the same color as the silhouette paper so it isn’t much noticeable. Mr. Moore has a small tear at the front-most point of the bust termination and another at the crown of his head. There is wrinkling to his paper and assorted small stains. His silhouette paper is missing paper in the top corners. Ms. Walker has a few creases that indicate she was once folded to fit into a small frame. She has some assorted stains but is, overall, pretty clean. The frames measure 5 ½” x 7 1/8”. Circa 1820. This is an excellent price for the pair!

    #5833 & 5384    $400/pair

    Please see the Silhouettist Bios page for more information about Charles Willson Peale and Moses Williams.