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.
The Animaux book includes a very few tiny whimsical profiles like this grouping. The tiny boy to the left rides a very wooly Shetland pony and wears a great cap with a tassel. He holds a riding whip aloft. The boy on the right seems to be in a bit of a pickle as his donkey is running away with him. Dressed much the same way as his more sedate friend, this boy is leaning back in the saddle as he pulls the reins in a failed attempt to stop his ride. The donkey has his mouth open against the bit, his ears back, his tail straight out behind him and his back feet in a bit of a buck. Together the boys make quite a scene! The whip on the pony-riding figure has a bit that has bent and turned wrong side out. I tried to gently bend it back but could not without a lot of effort that I feared would cause it to tear. You really won’t notice that tiny apology unless you pull out a loupe. The donkey-riding figure has a few tiny, light white spots—not noticeable without some effort. The pony-riding figure is less than 1” tall x ¾” long. The donkey-riding figure is less than 1” tall x 1 ¼” long (due to the stretched out tail). The beautifully colored period maple frame measures 6 ¼” wide x 5 ¼” tall with a sight size of 3” x 1 5/8”. This is really a little stunner and like nothing you will find in an Edouart commissioned piece! Mid-19th century (1826-1845).
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.