(PHYSIOGNOMY) // A group of sixteen black-profile silhouettes, caricatured.
Circa 1840, possibly New England. Single sheet (23 x 29 cm.) bearing four rows of black profile silhouettes, cut from glossy black paper; with four silhouettes across each row, for a total of sixteen. The sheet having been affixed to later backing board, slightly askew; board showing residue and toning from previous matting, not affecting silhouettes. Now set within acid-free mat and housed within complementary gilt frame (33 x 26 cm.).
As a physiognomic tool, Lavater designed his silhouette machine, with its products promising to represent the "immediate imprint of Nature." On the other side of this objectivity, the art of caricature made a competing claim for truth; thus Jackson in The history of silhouettes (1911): "The subject of caricature in silhouette is a very interesting one, but cannot be fully treated here. There are few examples, and it is strange that so virile and graphic an art as that of the silhouette should show so few specimens of caricature work. In August Edouart's work just such aptitude for seizing the salient feature in face or figure is invariably shown which never allows his scissors to swerve from faithful and exact portrayal."