New York and my Tuttle silhouettes

Silhouete of a man a woman

Here’s some silhouette news you might be interested in, though New York is unlikely to be on your itinerary just at the moment, I suspect. However, you can visit on the web, to a certain extent.

You may know that I have in our collection a silhouette of a couple sitting opposite each other at a table with a cat underneath. Last summer, at a friend’s suggestion, I had the frame removed and found the names of both the sitters just underneath the frame and the date(1826).

Silhouette of a man and woman facing each other across a table
Silhouette of James and Sarah Tuttle, in my collection

A look on the computer quickly showed who they were. Most interestingly, I also discovered that my silhouette is in fact a copy of an original nineteenth-century watercolour painting (I wonder whether that is unique?)

My search also showed the name of the present location of the painting, which turns out to be in New York. I naturally contacted the curator of the museum concerned. That’s how I learnt about their current show (although they put it put on hold because of Covid):

In Profile: A Look at Silhouettes

The curator was very interested in the existence of a silhouette of one of the museum’s paintings. I can’t find any clue as to who made the silhouette or why. However, I’m tempted to guess that a family member asked for it to be made.

Can you think of any other reason?

Amercian Folk Art painting of a man and woman
Portrait of James and Sarah Tuttle, by Joseph H. Davis (courtesy of the New-York Historical Society Museum and Library)

James and Sarah Tuttle

The couple depicted in the painting are James and Sarah Tuttle. It’s striking how carefully the silhouettist tried to reproduce accurately the details of the painting. Once I searched, I found the couple instantly on Google. The watercolour is by Joseph Davis, an itinerant painter known for his portraits of married couples. Quite an accomplished work, it looks to me [ more info ]

The exhibition was a happy find. I was impressed by the Wedgewood (1783) anti-slavery medallion. There are other interesting things too, some quite modern.

1 thought on “New York and my Tuttle silhouettes

  1. This is fascinating. Your in-parenthesis speculation about the uniqueness of this practice got me thinking.
    How often did silhouettists make copies of oil paintings? Was it, like etching, a way of copying famous paintings before the advent of photography?

    Even more intriguing, could it be done today? What would be the implications? I feel a blog post coming on….

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