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Silhouette Prints

The silhouette is a tradition that emerged in European art in the 18th and 19th centuries, and involves reproducing the outline of a sitter's face or bust. The tradition was started by Johann Caspar Lavater, a scientist interested in the study of physiognomy, or the idea that the face is a reflection of individual character traits.

Successful artists created finely detailed likenesses, often using cut paper and occasionally finishing them by hand. The black outline of the sitter would be mounted on paper of a contrasting background, and was an inexpensive alternative to the portrait miniature. The silhouettes were reproduced for books and post cards, drawing notoriety for the artists that specialized in this craft.

Artists created woodblock prints using the silhouette outlines as a guide for the purpose of creating book illustrations. In the 19th century, hand-colored prints were more expensive to create than silhouettes, and were often included as an alternative. The invention of the daguerreotype in the mid-19th century caused the silhouette to fall out of favor, as the new inexpensive method of portraiture took hold in Europe.

A contemporary example of silhouettes in art making are those by artist Kara Walker, who revived interest in paper cut silhouettes.


Quick Facts

  • Isabella Beetham was a pioneering female silhouette artist who mastered the technique of paper cutting and hand-detailing miniatures
  • John Miers practiced silhouette art in Great Britain in the late 18th century. Miers painted his silhouettes, often on ivory, and often took less than three minutes to produce an image
  • Austrian artist Otto Böhler specialized in creating silhouettes of German musicians, composers, and conductors, including the famous Bach and Mahler. His work was often reproduced for ads in newspapers

Recommended Items at Auction

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4 SILHOUETTES, INCLUDING GEORGE & MARTHA WASHINGTON
Oct 19, 10:00 PM EDT
4 SILHOUETTES, INCLUDING GEORGE & MARTHA WASHINGTON
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $150- $250
$801 Bid
Pair of hollowcut and watercolor silhouettes
Oct 07, 9:00 AM EDT
Pair of hollowcut and watercolor silhouettes
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $400- $600
$2001 Bid
Assemblage of Four Small Framed Silhouettes
Oct 15, 10:00 AM CDT
Assemblage of Four Small Framed Silhouettes
by Link Auction Galleries
Est: $100- $150
$501 Bid
Portrait Miniature Silhouette early 19th century Gentleman facing left inscribed
Oct 23, 10:00 AM PDT
Portrait Miniature Silhouette early 19th century Gentleman facing left inscribed
by Global Auctions Company
Est: $250- $300
$2000 Bids
German Hand cut silhouette handgeschnittene / Scherenschnitte , signed
Oct 23, 10:00 AM PDT
German Hand cut silhouette handgeschnittene / Scherenschnitte , signed
by Global Auctions Company
Est: $200- $300
$1800 Bids
Paper Silhouette of gentleman 19th century American Hand carved Wood Frame
Oct 23, 10:00 AM PDT
Paper Silhouette of gentleman 19th century American Hand carved Wood Frame
by Global Auctions Company
Est: $200- $250
$1600 Bids
19th century English or American Miniature Silhouette Pen and Ink Silhouette Drawing
Oct 23, 10:00 AM PDT
19th century English or American Miniature Silhouette Pen and Ink Silhouette Drawing
by Global Auctions Company
Est: $200- $300
$1500 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), TWO SILHOUETTES
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), TWO SILHOUETTES
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $150- $250
$800 Bids
HELEN H. INGLESBY, ST. GEORGE & DRAGON, SILHOUETTE
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN H. INGLESBY, ST. GEORGE & DRAGON, SILHOUETTE
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $150- $250
$800 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), 2 SILHOUETTES
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), 2 SILHOUETTES
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $150- $250
$800 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY, 2 LARGE SILHOUETTES
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY, 2 LARGE SILHOUETTES
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (GA, 1914-1999), 4 SILHOUETTES
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (GA, 1914-1999), 4 SILHOUETTES
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $250- $350
$1250 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY, 5 SILHOUETTES OF CHILDREN
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY, 5 SILHOUETTES OF CHILDREN
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), 8 SILHOUETTES
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), 8 SILHOUETTES
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $250- $350
$1250 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY, 5 CHRISTMAS SILHOUETTES
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY, 5 CHRISTMAS SILHOUETTES
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), 2 SILHOUETTES
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), 2 SILHOUETTES
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
ECOLE CONTEMPORAINE DES ANNEES 60
Oct 14, 9:30 AM CEST
ECOLE CONTEMPORAINE DES ANNEES 60
by HVMC - Hôtel des Ventes de Monte-Carlo
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids
A. EDOUART SILHOUETTE
Oct 07, 10:00 AM EDT
A. EDOUART SILHOUETTE
by Withington Auctions
Est: $400- $1,000
$2000 Bids
DAMON MACNAUGHT (AMERICAN, B. 1975) SILHOUETTE CLOSE-PACK MILLEFIORI PAPERWIEGHT,
Oct 13, 9:00 AM EDT
DAMON MACNAUGHT (AMERICAN, B. 1975) SILHOUETTE CLOSE-PACK MILLEFIORI PAPERWIEGHT,
by Jeffrey S. Evans & Associates
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
THREE VICTORIAN STEVENGRAPHS together with silhouettes etc. (qty)
Oct 14, 9:30 AM BST
THREE VICTORIAN STEVENGRAPHS together with silhouettes etc. (qty)
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £60- £80
£40 Bids
A Framed Stancil Work
Oct 09, 1:00 PM EDT
A Framed Stancil Work
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $25- $250
$250 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY, 3 SILHOUETTES & ANOTHER
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY, 3 SILHOUETTES & ANOTHER
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $250- $400
$1250 Bids
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), 3 SILHOUETTES
Oct 20, 10:00 AM EDT
HELEN HATCH INGLESBY (1914-1999), 3 SILHOUETTES
by Everard Auctions and Appraisals
Est: $150- $250
$800 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Silhouette Prints


Link Auction Galleries

Link Auction Galleries

Pook & Pook Inc.

Pook & Pook Inc.