Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.

Bracelet - Silhouette of an unknown man
  • Silhouette of an unknown man
    Field, John, born 1771 - died 1848
  • Enlarge image

Silhouette of an unknown man

  • Object:

    Bracelet

  • Place of origin:

    England (painted)

  • Date:

    ca. 1790-1848 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Field, John, born 1771 - died 1848 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour on ivory set on a hair bracelet

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Captain Desmond Coke

  • Museum number:

    P.169-1922

  • Gallery location:

    Portrait Miniatures, Room 90a, The International Music and Art Foundation Gallery, case 15

In the 18th century, cut-paper images (usually blackened) were called 'shades' or, if they were portraits, 'profiles'. The taste for profiles grew in the 1770s when the archaeological discoveries of Roman sites at Herculaneum and Pompeii encouraged a wave of neo-Classicism. Profiles were given added popularity by the publication in 1775 of the hugely popular Essays on Physiognomy by the Swiss theologian and poet J. C. Lavater. This was illustrated with numerous simple black profiles, because, Lavater claimed, by concentrating on a person's main features one could detect their character, both their virtues and their vices.

The 'silhouette' (so called after a French minister notorious for wasting his time on this popular hobby) was primarily commercially successful because in its simplest form it was a cheap and quick method of portraiture. With mechanical aids, a sitting could be one minute and endless repetitions for friends and family could be done without further tedious sittings. But the desire for novelty on the part of both artists and clients soon led to diversification from the original cut paper or simple painted profiles on paper. Artists could paint on the under surface of flat or convex glass, using oil colour or watercolour. The glass was then framed against a plaster background, and sometimes those profiles painted on convex glass would be backed by a thin coating of wax. Artists could paint on plaster, but watercolour, ink or oil were not suitable and it seems that artists used some kind of soot or charcoal based pigment. In another popular method borrowed from miniature painting, the artist worked in watercolour on ivory, often with bronzed highlights as in this example by John Field.

Physical description

Silhouette portrait of an unknown man, painted in a very dark brown or black and bronze colour, on a quasi-rectangular piece of ivory with rounded corners. The silhoeutte is set onto a metal bracelet, the straps of which have been finely woven or plaited with hair. Signed by the artist.

Place of Origin

England (painted)

Date

ca. 1790-1848 (painted)

Artist/maker

Field, John, born 1771 - died 1848 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour on ivory set on a hair bracelet

Marks and inscriptions

Field II Strand
Signed below the bust

Dimensions

Height: 32 mm Size of ivory, Width: 21 mm

Descriptive line

Silhouette portrait of an unknown man, painted on ivory by John Field and set onto a metal bracelet woven with hair. Great Britain, ca. 1790-1848.

Materials

Watercolour; Ivory; Hair; Metal

Techniques

Painting; Silhouette

Subjects depicted

Silhouette; Bracelet

Categories

Paintings; Portraits; Jewellery; Accessories

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.