I always wonder why auctioneers don’t take advantage of what is usually a free service I offer, telling them whether these things are real or fake. But they seldom do–so today we have a pop quiz! Please tell us all the ways we know this silhouette is a faked “Edouart”. I will say this test is a little harder than usual. But, it still can be spotted by those who study these.
From comments (that don’t show up, even after I approve),
Oh, the pressure is on. I hope I don’t screw this up!
Where is the watercolor background? The signature doesn’t look quite right and lack of location. Doesn’t he include that (but maybe not all the time)? No button holes. The mother is missing a foot.
I would love to see what others think!
Let’s read more ideas before I respond.
Sadly, no one else ventured an analysis so I’ll give mine. These are difficult and the reason that one should seek help before spending hard earned money. But, if you look at Edouart’s real signatures, this one jumps out as wrong. Admittedly, Edouart had slight differences over the 20+ years of his career but this signature is too round and written with too much care. Another very important point required a small bit of research on my part. I googled Harriet Adams Edouart and found the same silhouette with a better close-up of the signature. The ink is black. As I have tried to hammer into your heads, Edouart used iron gall ink and all iron gall ink of the 19th century has turned brown. If you look at the picture the auction house provides of the reverse, you will see an inscription on the back that looks like Edouart’s writing and is brown. One might jump on the apparently authenticity of the inscription as evidence that the silhouette is authentic, but the inscription on the reverse is clearly on a separate piece of paper or card that is likely glued to the back of the silhouette card. It could have easily been taken from a real Edouart of Mrs, Harriet and Robert Adams. Why would someone do this? Well, silhouettes taken by Edouart in the South (this one says New Orleans) are quite rare and a hot commodity. Perhaps the real one was damaged and someone thought they could get more money adding the authentic inscription on the reverse of a fake silhouette than they could get with the real, damaged silhouette.
Secondly, in 1844, Edouart was highlighting his silhouettes with white chalk lines to define clothing and hair details. There is no embellishment here. And although these figures are cut better than most of the fakes we see, the boy looks like a miniature man, his jacket has no cut button-holes, and, although a space has been cut to insert the white collar, there has never been white paper inserted there. If a piece of paper had been glued there and lost, we would see glue stains. Also, if you look at the hair of the figures, you will see that it is cut with sharp angles where as Edouart’s cutting was very smooth. He also would have cut the hair with wispy strands or locks around the edges. I don’t know the height of these figures but they look like they might be a tad too tall for Edouart’s standard (where an adult man would be around 7 inches tall). None of the figures have eyelashes, whereas Edouart always cut tiny eyelashes. I can’t see the paper well, but I would bet dollars to donuts that the background paper is wood-pulp paper (made after Edouart retired from cutting).
So, the lesson on this silhouette is finished. I hope it helps you in the future. I have another coming up soon!