Antique American Silhouette from the Museum of Charles Willson Peale
  • Everyone who collects American silhouettes should have at least one from Charles Willson Peale's Philadelphia Museum in their collection.  Here is a nice one in a really stunning frame (the photo doesn't do the frame justice).  This lovely lady is identified as "Mary Townsend" by a period inscription at the top of the paper.  Realizing that Museum silhouettes were sold to the sitters unframed, in duplicate, this hollow cut silhouette probably sat in a book or drawer for decades before it was put into this wonderful period frame.  The fact that it wasn't initially framed certainly explains the crinkles in the paper and the relative few, light spots.....had it been framed it would likely have many more acid stains from a wood backboard and it would have likely yellowed to a much greater degree than it has.  This circa 1800 silhouette has the classic bust-line used by the Peale Museum and the simple "MUSEUM" impressed stamp.  It was likely cut by Peale's former slave Moses Williams who ran Peale's silhouette business.  There are far too many women by the name of Mary Townsend in New England during this time period to be able to pin her genealogy down at all. 

    I acquired this out of a long time collection.  The provenance is recorded via a typewritten discussion of the artist that is taped onto the back of the frame, an Ohio antique dealer's trade label and another label of The Dixie Antique Shop addressing the silhouette to Mrs. Wilbur C. Jones.  We learned from the typed page, The Dixie Antique Shop was owned by H. Ogden Wintermute, and the silhouette was presented to Mrs. Jones ("D.S.J.) by her husband for Christmas 1948.

    This artist is a must-have for any American silhouette collection and the price is worth wonderful mahogany veneer frame along.  Sight size is 4 1/2" x 3 3/4" and framed size is 10 1/2" x 9 7/8".  Although the frame is of the period, it has been resized for the silhouette.  The early wavy glass is another plus to this silhouette.  It is time this profile become another Christmas gift after 66 years!

    (#5336)     Sale Pending
    Exhibited "Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America", American Folk Art Museum, New York, October 6, 2016 - February 26, 2017.

    Published: Hollander, Stacy, Securing the Shadow: Posthumous Portraiture in America, exhibition catalog, October 6, 2016 - February 26, 2017, 85.

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