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Home Event Portraits of the People: Miniatures, Silhouettes and Itinerant Artists in America

Portraits of the People: Miniatures, Silhouettes and Itinerant Artists in America

New Exhibit! Opens May 17

Portraits of the People: Miniatures, Silhouettes and Itinerant Artists in America

At the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden

The early 19th century could be called the Golden Age of silhouette portraits in America.  The art of “silhouette making” emerged from France in the 18th century and just  a few years later, both established and travelling American and European artists created silhouettes  for  America’s very wealthy, the middle class and to ordinary folk at country fairs .  Silhouettes were highly desired items; their many different names such as “shades, profiles, miniature profiles, shadow portraits, and likenesses” reflect  both their  popularity and the techniques used to produce them.  The images ranged from busts of one subject, to full body portraits of groups -depending on the pocketbook of the buyer. Artists competed  for commissions through newspaper advertisements which boasted of one’s speed, (just a few minutes!) accuracy and creative techniques of paper cutting.  Artists also competed in innovations:  for example, The Mount Vernon is proud to display the portrait of Eliza Jumel, one of the wealthiest women in antebellum America and also wife to Aaron Burr.  The artist inserted the silhouette of Jumel  into a lithograph of a domestic scene complete with surrounding lamp, carpeting and upholstery.   Pleasecome for a tour of the museum and a look at our exhibition on “Silhouettes.”  free with admission

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