Black Out @ Smithsonian

February 16, 2019 at 12:21 pm (books, entertainment, history, portraits and paintings) (, , , , )

There’s still time, if you act fast, to catch the closing weeks (until 10 March 2019) of BLACK OUT: SILHOUETTES NOW AND THEN, at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (Washington D.C.).

Having opened in May 2018, there has been a fair amount of press:

  • National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian: Press Release
  • Washington Post: “Before Photography the silhouette helped leave an impression” (Philip Kennicott)
  • Hyperallergic: “An Outline of over 200 Years of Silhouettes” (Claire Voon) [great photos of the installation]
  • “Five Questions” with Curator Asma Naeem
  • Quarizy: “An Enslaved Woman’s Candlelit Shadow” {Portrait of Flora] (Corinne Purtill)
  • Frieze: “Out of the Shadows: A Contrasting History Lesson in Black and White (Evan Moffitt)

Also available: the book BLACK OUT: Silhouettes Then and Now, through the museum store, which helps support the National Portrait Gallery, as well as such exhibitions.

Black Out

ONE resultant article is a fascinating look at Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant of Weybridge, Vermont! Their portrait images are from the Collection of the Henry Sheldon Museum of Vermont History, in Middlebury. [The Sheldon Museum reopens on 2 April 2019.]

Dating from c1805-1815, the engaging pair of silhouettes, “entwined in braided human hair,” lift from the shadows a story of this same-sex couple. A quote from William Cullen Bryant (Charity’s nephew), in 1841, says: “If I were permitted to draw aside the veil of private life….” The Drake-Bryant silhouettes alone have lifted that veil (see below). Being placed on display, especially in such a prominent exhibition, “allow[s] these kinds of stories to be told” (to quote the curator in Roger Caitlin’s article for Smithsonian.com).

The pair of women have also made the local Vermont news:

  • The newspaper Addison County Independent‘s story on Sylvia Drake and Charity Bryant travelling down from Middlebury, Vermont to Washington D.C.
  • Seven Days picked up the story, and through that we learn of Bryant’s death in 1851; and that the Sheldon Museum also has “a wealth of archival materials,” donated by Drake’s family. These include “letters, diaries, poems and other ephemera.” Oooohhh…..

Fascinating to read that University of Victoria (BC, Canada) historian Rachel Hope Cleves, who researched the Sheldon’s collection of Drake materials “and basically made this case that these women were a lesbian couple living together.” Cleves published (in 2014) Charity & Sylvia: A Same-Sex Marriage in Early America.

Charity & Sylvia

The cover will whet your appetite to see the original silhouettes!! And the content, the story of Charity and Sylvia, will make you want to buy the book – which is available through the Henry Sheldon Museum as well as your usual book places.

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the Shades of Pemberley…

June 8, 2013 at 11:37 am (books, entertainment, fashion, history, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Among the preeminent cutters of silhouettes stands Auguste Edouart; and it was while searching for something completely different that I came across this wonderful little book from 1921, Ancestors in Silhouette, cut by August [sic] Edouart. Illustrative Notes and Biographical Sketches by Mrs F. Nevill Jackson. Mrs F. Nevill Jackson, as you can see, being ID’ed as Emily Jackson.

Mrs Jackson had her hands on the “duplicate” books of Edouart; it seems that when he cut a silhouette, he kept a duplicate, and ID’ed it in his sitters’ books! I was *THRILLED* to find the New York Historical Society’s “finding guide” for the Emily Jackson Photograph Collection of Édouart’s American Silhouette Portraits… until I mentally-backed-up and re-read the title: AMERICAN silhouette portraits. Oh, dear… So what has happened to her collection of Edouart’s ENGLISH Silhouette Portraits?

Why, you might ask, do I care?

While I am still combing through the list at the back of the book (I’m up to “N”), look at what I’ve uncovered:

Silhouettes by Auguste Edouart (arranged by date):

Rev. Henry Wilder, Purley Hall, Reading (London, 21 Mar 1829)

Mrs Austen, 6, Portland Place (London, 3 Apr 1829)
Rev. J.E Austen, 6, Portland Place (London, 3 Apr 1829)

Sir Charles Smith, 6, Portland Place (London, 4 Apr 1829)
Lady Smith (London, 4 Apr 1829)
Baby Miss Smith (London, 4 Apr 1829)
Miss Smith, Portland Place (London, 4 Apr 1829)
Langham Christie, Esq. No. 2, Cumberland St, Portman Sq (London, 4 Apr 1829)
Chas. Dickins, Esq. (London, 4 Apr 1829)
Lady Eliz. Dickins (London, 4 Apr 1829)

Chas. Cunliffe Smith (London, 9 Apr 1829)
Drummond Smith, Esq. (London, 9 Apr 1829)

Spencer Smith, Esq. (London, 10 Apr 1829)
Miss Gosling, 6, Portland Place (London, 10 Apr 1829) [sic: 5, Portland Place]

Chas. Wm. Christie, Esq., No. 2 Cumberland St, Portman Sq (London, 20 May 1829)

Rev. Sir John Seymour, Bart., St Peter’s Cathedral (2 ports.) (Gloucester, 1 Nov 1836)
Lady John Seymour (Gloucester, 1 Nov 1836)
Master Michael Seymour (Gloucester, 1 Nov 1836)

Henry Wilder, soon to be wed to Augusta Smith (“Miss Smith” of Portland place who sits on the 4th; they married on April 8, 1829), leads the pack, visiting Edouart in March. Mrs Austen and the Rev. J.E. Austen (id’ed incorrectly by Jackson, or else a printer’s error, as I.E. Austen), then appeared — and Emma actually notes this visit!

Just look how many visited Edouart on the following day: Charles and Mary, their baby Mimi — little Charles (“Chas. Cunliffe”) visits a few days later with his uncle Drummond; Augusta, Langham Christie, and the Dickins, another newly-married couple (February, 1829).

Charles, of all people, mentions this visit; Mary is silent about it, commenting only on the health of “baby” (Mimi) — and the acceptance of her sister Elizabeth Gosling of Langham Christie’s proposal of marriage! Yes, Langham visited Edouart on the very day he proposed! That may be why she then visits Edouart – in company with Spencer Smith, six days later.

Then, pulling up the rear, is Langham’s brother, Charles Christie.

A big gap of time, and a little activity that I simply must mention, in 1836: the family of the Rev. Sir John Seymour, bart: husband, wife and young son.

  • But WHERE are these silhouettes — I’d even settle for (if such ever existed) Emily Jackson’s photographic supplements! So a brief plea here; anyone with ANY knowledge of a stash of Edouart silhouettes, please let me know. Keeping fingers crossed that I can track these images down.

What might these Edouart Silhouettes look like? _I_ presumed the typical “head”-shot…. I’ve found a few online examples:

Edouart produced silhouettes as simple as this full figure:

edouart_boy

And yet note the elaborate background of these two solitary figures:

 edouart_garden  edouart_library

and silhouette groupings, such as this one:

edouart_couple

Or, this well-populated room:

edouart_family

WHAT might the Smiths & Goslings and their intendeds and new husbands
have picked for their silhouettes???

I’m dying to know!

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Pictures worth a 1000 words

January 22, 2012 at 12:00 pm (british royalty, diaries, history, jane austen, news, people, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , )

This picture isn’t worth only the proverbial “thousand words,” it was also worth a £1000 to the lucky purchaser at a November 2011 Bonhams auction. The sitter: Mamma Smith’s aunt, Susannah Mackworth Smith (wife of Thomas Smith of Bersted Lodge, Bognor).

Emma’s diaries mention a near-yearly visit to Bersted; though very little is said about the Aunt and Uncle found there… AH, joys and frustrations of working with primary materials. You wish people would ‘spill their guts’; instead they tempt you with teasing clues.

You can see the entire Susannah Smith miniature at Bonhams‘ website. If you search for Mackworth Praed you will also find her twin sister (Arabella, Countess of Mayo; a lady attached to the household of Queen Adelaide); and two of their brothers.

Susannah has not been my only *find* recently. Gosh! so many families purging themselves of ancestral miniatures… Don’t know which is more depressing: people selling their ancestors or all those portraits of “A Lady” or “A Gentleman” who could be someone in the Smith & Gosling family and friend tree!

{Hell, there even could be some Austens out there… going through life as unnamed Ladies and Gents.}

Another family member “found” and not yet discussed, although I posted her portrait a short bit ago, is Frances Anne Seymour — who married Spencer Smith. I actually have a photograph of Frances, granted – as photography was a later medium, taken when she was in her late 50s. Still so much FUN to compare the two, young “Bride” Frances and older “Matriarch” Frances. She, too, sold through Bonhams (in 2008). Note that on the website her middle name is spelled Ann; oh, spelling differences just kills me! {And Paula Byrne thinks she has problems with Austin… Try Jelfe/Jelph; Dickins/Dickens; Du Val/Duval; Susan/Susannah/Susanna; and a whole host of others… Never mind, just trying to find people named SMITH!}

Frances and Spencer were the parents of the trio of girls whose miniatures sold at auction I discussed in December. They sold through Christie’s. Mike E., who photographed the album into which Frances and her three daughters were “pasted,” was surprised yet happy that the girls had sold as one lot. May they remain together!

Emma Rutherford‘s Facebook page offers some fascinating reading about the world of miniatures and silhouettes. Let’s face it, for most of my people — even those who lived into older age and photography — these are the types of images that (might) survive. Emma has a new article out in Homes & Antiques Magazine; I’ve unearthed an earlier conversation on miniatures from the same magazine. Her February 2012 article is on silhouettes. Not sure how easy it is to find the magazine in the US. You can read more about Emma Rutherford at her website. Emma kindly alerted Two Teens readers to an article on the Byrne Jane Austen portrait.

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A silhouette of Mary Lady Smith

August 9, 2011 at 2:44 pm (entertainment, jasna, portraits and paintings, research) (, , , , , , )

I hesitate to bring attention to this image, for it is my own “cutting” – and gosh I had such problems! But a quick look around two crafts stores and I’m convinced I have to either spend a good $20 on a small set of sheers, or half that on an Exacto-knife — but I’m on the fence about needing to cut on some surface…

Anyway: the drawing in Scenes from Life at Suttons, presummed to have been done by Augusta Smith (Augusta Wilder to give her married name), was of a type so convenient to be adapted as a silhouette that it is that image rather than Augusta’s sketch of her (very light, and oh-so-barely colored) that you will see presented here on this blog:

It really brings to home how much I loved the computer programs I had at my last place of employment — I could have Photoshopped this image to perfection. You’ll have to have patience (what an expensive program!) until I can get to a handy computer lab (the one I used to use has removed the scanner – which means a removal of Photoshop from the computer! a true loss: the lab was so quiet to use on a late Sunday morning…).

So Mary now joins Emma in being depicted on “their own blog”:

When I was researching at the Hampshire Record Office, there was one sketchbook of extremely FAINT outlines of people. They must have been outlines made in preparation of silhouttes. Alas! no identifyers were ever attached to these…, and how would they photograph? Nil, I would think.

Two years ago, at the JASNA AGM held in Philadelphia, my roommate had her silhouette cut by an artist who just observed and cut, but I know there were “machines” in use way back when; and Willoughby is depicted as getting his “shade taken” in Emma Thompson’s Sense and Sensibility — so this is a subject I will return to! But later…

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Introducing…PICTURES!

March 28, 2010 at 5:16 pm (people) (, , , , )

Ever wonder what some of the people this blog is concerned with looked like??

Sometimes the closest one gets is a silhouette, sometimes a quick sketch, but at other times you find a full oil portrait – like this Raeburn portrait of Spencer, Lord Compton used on a cover for a new reprint of a Georgette Heyer book.

Those posted online usually come from online sources – websites, books, catalogues, etc. And the current list can be seen by clicking on PORTRAITS on the menu above.

There is also a listing of known family portraits whose whereabouts are unknown to me. Any leads would be greatly appreciated!

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A little birdie told me

September 12, 2009 at 12:18 am (books) (, , , , , )

After a bit of a search, a dear friend in Britain has come across one of the British Library’s Austen items — the Jane Austen Desk Diary — and our two figures have been identified!

austen-desk-diary1

The disappointing part is that, while profusely illustrated (with silhouettes by JEAL [James Edward Austen Leigh] as well as BL illustrations), there are no other people-silhouettes in the book [mentally insert a sad face here…].  See my previous post for some theories and hypotheses.

So who, according to my dickie bird, are these people?? The man – who I thought just might be Edward Austen Knight (Jane’s brother who was ‘adopted’ when a youth) – turns out to be James Edward Austen-Leigh! From the pictures I have of him – a couple paintings and one photograph taken in old age, I simply would not have guessed it was him.

And the girl I had so hoped was Emma’s sister Fanny?? Seems this is a silhouette of Caroline Wiggett, the adopted daughter of the Chutes of The Vyne! I kept thinking ‘no way!’ all day – but looking at my cache of pics just now I see that the silhouette I recalled in my mind’s eye and thought was a young Caroline Wiggett is actually of Caroline Austen (JEAL’s sister). No wonder they look nothing alike!

So mystery solved, as far as published pictures of the family goes. What the Austen-Leighs of today may have in their possession (and which may have been thought not as interesting as the silhouettes Edward cut for his children) remains to be seen (literally and figuratively). Evidently the British Library did not try to attribute the silhouettes to anyone. Could they possibly be the work of Emma’s eldest sister, Augusta?? I would LOVE to think that!

In Emma’s diaries there are MANY mentions of Augusta’s ‘shades’; she evidently was quite the adept at producing good likenesses. From Caroline’s “Reminiscences” (not published, but available in manuscript copy at the Hampshire Record Office), Augusta and Caroline were fast friends. Nice to believe, therefore, that the threesome were occupied one quiet evening, perhaps while everyone visited The Vyne, in creating what has come down to us via this lovely cover art.

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Eliza Chute in Silhouette

October 26, 2008 at 2:09 pm (chutes of the vyne, people, portraits and paintings) (, , , , , )

A busy weekend; have one article in the proof stage and another that needed some revision (and got a bit expanded — all to its benefit, if I say so myself). Last night I was so wide awake that I pulled out the newest book to land in my mailbox: A Life in the Country (British Library, 2008). This may have Jane Austen quotes, but I wanted it for the silhouettes done by James-Edward Austen-Leigh! So what a couple superb bonuses… an intriguing painting of Edward in the days near his marriage to Emma. The cleft chin is depicted but why does his hair seem a bit thinning? (As an older man he had quite the full head of hair, as one photograph attests.) For the first time I see a portrait of Emma and Edward’s daughter, Mary Augusta – who authored the memoir of JEAL that comes in handy to anyone looking into the lives of the Smith sisters; and a lovely silhouette of a young Caroline Austen, Edward’s sister.

But it is ELIZA and WILLIAM CHUTE which interested me, and, as I discuss Eliza quite a bit (and have so much more to say about her) I include here this lovely silhouette.

I will have more to say about the book (the British Library was kind enough to send a review copy), though probably on Jane Austen in Vermont’s blog. I will just say that it is wonderful to see it in a so-called trade edition, for I could never had afforded the limited edition copy. But JASNA-News ran a nice review of that when it first came out in 2005.

BTW, poor Edward deserves a bit more of the credit, don’t you think?? Yet it’s JANE AUSTEN’s name that sells a book nowadays… Hope we can change that. For the Austen-Leighs are fascinating, as are the Smiths and Goslings and all the in-laws — as can be seen from the comment on the Le Marchants! They all lead such ordinarily extraordinary lives.

Thank God people saw fit to save their portraits, letters, diaries and ephemera!

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