Rare Antique Silhouette of Mastiff from Edouart's Personal Folio
  • If you follow my website or have seen any of my talks, you probably know that Augustin Edouart was meticulous about his silhouette art. He prided himself (and rightfully so) for cutting the most lifelike of figures. He kept duplicates of each of his silhouettes in folios. In 1849, Edouart left America on a ship named Oneida bound for the British Isles. He took all his possessions with him. Oneida sank in the Guernsey Bay. Luckily, everyone survived but Edouart’s precious silhouettes, the work of a lifetime, sank to the bottom of the bay. A few were rescued and, when Edouart left Guernsey for Calais, France where he would live the rest of his life, he left all the recovered duplicate folios with the family who cared for him in Guernsey. The duplicates that Edouart left with the Lukis family eventually made their way to Mrs. F. Nevil Jackson who cataloged them and restored them from their waterlogged condition. Mrs. Jackson sold the duplicates in groups and singles and they come onto the market with enough regularity to keep the many collectors of Edouart happy.

    That, in a nutshell, is the story of the duplicates. However, a new and exciting discovery recently surfaced from a Parisian bookseller: Edouart’s personal folio of “Scraps” in a book labeled “Animaux”. This is the most Edouart exciting discovery in a century! Mrs. Jackson discovered the duplicate folios in the first decade of the 20th century. It appears that Edouart took this book with him to Calais. It was filled with figures of dogs, horses, toys, mythical characters, floral sprays, and on and on. It looks like Edouart used the book to keep figures that he cut to practice unusual forms that he might have been commissioned to add to conversation silhouettes as well as figures that he cut for his own amusement. The book was a treasure trove of incredible pieces. I have been so lucky to acquire more than 200 figures removed from this book. In the coming months, I will be offering these mind-boggling silhouettes for sale. They will always be lightly mounted on acid-free materials and framed in period frames. The reverse of the mountings will always be stamped with a specially made stamp for items from this book and also with my collection stamp. The reason for my insistence on mounting and stamping is because these figures are so unusual (although distinctly from Edouart’s hand) that I want to help future generations authenticate them because they can be traced back to me.

    I’ve not seen a Mastiff in silhouette by Edouart or any other 19th century silhouettist. Yet Edouart left a us a fabulous one in Animaux. Although a few breeds may be slightly heavier or taller, the Mastiff is overall, the largest of all breeds. Bred for game hunting and dogs of war, the Mastiff is in the background of many large breeds of today. The Roman poet, Grattius (63 B.C, to 14 A.D.), referred to the great war dogs of the British which were likely some of the breed’s founding stock. Mastiffs are heavy dogs with a body length from the shoulder to buttocks being greater than the height to the withers. You can see the dog’s massive size depicted in this fabulous profile. Even without a face drawn on the figure, you can see the dog’s intelligence just in the way she holds his head as if inquiring about her surroundings while she walks along with his tail aloft. She wears a wide collar with a large ring to hold connect to a leash or tie. The silhouette has a few light white spots as expected for a silhouette book that “went down with the ship.” The figure measures 3 5/8” from nose to tail x 2 ¾” tall. She’s framed in a beautifully figured period maple frame with a canted profile that measures 8” x 7” with a sight size of 4 ¼” x 3 ½”. A wonderful find for any dog or silhouette lover! Mid-19th century (1826-1845).

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    Edouart, Augustin, A Treatise on Silhouette Likenesses, Longman & Co., Paternoster-Row; and J. Bolster, Patrick-Street, Cork, 1835.

    Jackson, Mrs. E. Nevill, Silhouettes A History and Dictionary of Artists, Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1981 (published as an unabridged republication of Jackson’s Silhouette: Notes and Dictionary, Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1938), at 98-99.

    Please see the Silhouettist Bios page for more information about Edouart.