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Miniature - An Unknown family group
  • An Unknown family group
    Mackenzie, Laura Jemima Muir
  • Enlarge image

An Unknown family group

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Scotland (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1820-1828 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mackenzie, Laura Jemima Muir (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Cut paper

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Hon. Frances M. Talbot

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case RMC, shelf 7, box E

In the 18th century cut-paper images (usually blackened) were called 'shades'. If they were portraits, they were known as 'profiles'. The fashion for 'profiles' grew in the 1770s, when the archaeological discoveries of ancient Roman sites at Herculaneum and Pompeii encouraged a taste for Neo-classicism. ‘Profiles’ became even more fashionable after about 1775, when Johann Kaspar Lavater published his hugely popular Essays on Physiognomy. He claimed that one could detect a person’s character by concentrating on his or her main features. These would reveal both virtues and vices. Lavater illustrated the book with numerous simple black profiles.

The 'silhouette' was named after a French minister who was notorious for wasting his time on this popular hobby. Commercially, it was very successful, because in its simplest form it was a cheap and quick method of portraiture. Laura Muir Mackenzie's work, however, is an example of the continuing popularity of paper cutting as an amateur pastime. Mackenzie was the third daughter of Sir Alexander Muir Mackenzie of Delvine, Perthshire, Scotland, who became a baronet in 1803, and Jane, the eldest daughter of Sir Robert Murray, Baronet. She was a talented cutter of paper silhouettes, producing much of her work in her teens. She cut mainly group silhouettes. These were mainly of domestic scenes, such as babies being bathed, children playing cards and older members of a family playing chess.

Physical description

Silhouette in cut paper of an unknown family group

Place of Origin

Scotland (made)


ca. 1820-1828 (made)


Mackenzie, Laura Jemima Muir (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Cut paper


Height: 155 mm, Width: 200 mm

Object history note

Given by the Hon. Frances M. Talbot

Descriptive line

Silhouette in cut paper of an unknown family group, by Laura Mackenzie. Great Britain, ca. 1820-1828.





Subjects depicted

Families; Portrait; Silhouette


Portraits; Scotland


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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