Great American Folk Silhouettes Auctioned

Wow, what a great auction Skinner Inc. held May 21, 2016 for the Personal Collection of Lewis Scranton! Longtime dealer/collector Lewis Scranton hosted the auction at his home in Connecticut (preview in-home as displayed by the collector, auction under a tent outside).  Mr. Scranton insisted on the auction having no buyers’ premium!  It made for a very exciting auction.  I watched and bid online but couldn’t get a thing although I was underbidder on a number of truly extraordinary and rare American folk silhouettes. Here is a run-down of the fantastic silhouettes at this auction. The silhouettes are not in any particular order.  Congratulations to the high bidders on these profiles.

Bache hollowcut 1700

By William Bache, listed in catalog as a hollow cut. I sent an inquiry asking whether it was a hollow cut with shaded black paper behind (Bache did these but they are rare because the backing papers got separated from cutting) or fully painted. Answer came back that it appeared to be cut & paste–not words used but basically the answer. I knew that wasn’t the correct answer but didn’t bid. By price I would say it was hollow cut with shaded background.–$1700

not Whitcomb 7500

(In my opinion misattributed) to James Holsey Whitcomb in paint decorated frame–$7500. My attribution is to Justin Salisbury.


Wish I had not been saving up for the later silhouettes and had gone higher on this one. Unattributed at auction, but I attribute to Everet Howard because of the bustline termination and the painted dots around the boy’s clothing. $900.

Williams 1200

Charlotte Cummings by S. Williams–$1200. Interestingly, it appears that the silhouette is sewn onto the black backing (which is probably fabric).


Anonymous Artist, hollow-cut head with wood block stamped body. $900

Whitcomb 5500

Attr. James Holsey Whitcomb, in paint decorated frames–$5500

Tin frames 3000

Unsigned hollowcut in fabulous paint decorated frames–$3000

Newell 3000

Attributed to Anson Newell–$3000


Anonymous Artist, paint decorated paper mat. I’ve only seen two by this artist with the original painted mats. This is the 2nd time I’ve chased this silhouette but I didn’t get it this time either! $7500

Fraktur ringlets 4750

Anonymous Artist–A true American folk treasure–Published in A Loving Likeness American Folk Portraits of the Nineteenth Century–$4750

Fraktur 4750 under

Anonymous Artist–Another American folk treasure–1st child I’ve seen by this artist–$4750

Fraktur 4500

Anonymouse Artist–Another great one!–$4500

Fraktur 2000 question

Anonymous Artist–this one is different than any I’ve seen by this artist because of the very thin neck–$2000

Fraktur 1700

Anonymous Artist–1 of the few I didn’t bid on because I have several women by this artist–$1700

Davis 8000

Signed J.A. Davis, published in Silhouettes in America, 1790-1840, listed by Skinner as James A. Davis but I believe they meant Jane A. Davis–I really wanted this one!–$8000


Anonymous Artist–$5500.  I was a bit surprised by the price of this one because I have one by this artist and didn’t pay nearly this much.




Recent “Edouarts” sold at auction

Such a shame that these fake Edouarts recently were offered at auction.  I’ll call upon my kind readers to tell me why we know these silhouettes are fake.

Neals Auction lot 202 151121Neal Auction Company sold this very fake Edouart for $735 in its November 21-22, 2015 auction.  It is signed, dated 1844 and inscribed “New Orleans”.  Realize there are very few Southern cut silhouettes by Edouart and fake ones come up much more than real ones.



Cresent City Lot 388 1411This same silhouette sold at Crescent City Auction Gallery LLC for $900 in November 2014.





Skinner lot 146 151026These two silhouettes came up for auction at Skinner Inc. in their October 25, 2015 auction.  Luckily they did not sell at auction, although they may well have sold after auction.  I hope not.  They are very nice silhouettes but they are not by Edouart.  Can you tell me what the clues are?


Not fake missed Skinner 1511Finally….this last silhouette is a real Edouart and she is lovely.  I’m showing her to you because she was such a good deal and I forgot to bid!!!  I was so sad to have missed her.  She was also at Skinner Inc.



Please let me hear from you so we can share the clues of what to look for in these silhouettes with the rest of the readers……this is another one of those tests where we see whether I’m a good teacher or not!

The images, with the information attached, is from

bh writes: Ok, I am new at this but will take a wild stab at it and risk showing how uneducated/ignorant I am. 🙂 First, the empty background sticks out being so blank but I am unsure if he always had them watercolored/litho’d or whatever. Next, the feet seem weird because they all look like they’re on tippy toes. I thought one could be pointed downward but the other is usually straight ahead. Now what seems the strangest to me is the way the 6 year old boy is dressed….as an adult. Didn’t young boys dress like girls at that age? This one looks like a shrunken adult.

Peggy responds, bh, thanks for your comment.  Your comments are anything but ignorant! We all start somewhere and you have been working really hard to learn about antique silhouettes.  I appreciate you enthusiasm and interest!  Edouart did sometimes do commissioned silhouettes with white backgrounds.  The price to the sitter would have been partially determined by whether a white, litho or watercolor background was chosen.  You are correct about the feet–they are nothing like Edouart’s feet.  Of the 3 figures, the boy’s feet are closest to Edouart.  The feet of the woman and girl are not even close.  The boy is wearing an Eton suit which was fashionable for young boys in the 1840s.

Look deeper…..things like placement of body parts, awkwardness of positions, the care he took cutting hair and hands, signature characteristics of Edouart’s figures of men and boys (a clue is look at the apparel).  The photos given by the auction houses are too small to see the faces clearly, but there are no cut eyelashes that I can see.  Keep studying and sending comments!

Ebay seller stole my copyrighted photograph

This morning I find that ebay seller “theprimitiveman” stole one of my copyrighted photographs to produce a print of the silhouette for monetary gain. I am, of course, livid. One may reproduce an old piece of artwork only if one uses the actual artwork or the reproducer’s own photograph of the piece. However, when someone steals a photograph that is copyrighted to use for monetary gain, one has infringed on the copyright. I haven’t found this in a while….since I started putting a watermark on my photos. But, I am always hesitant to smack the watermark right across the body of the piece and so have tried to hide the watermarks out of the way. Today, this selfish individual has assured that I will change my method and smack the watermark right across the body of the artwork. What a shame that someone can be so callous and selfish as to steal someone else’s material for individual gain.

$_57Here is the ebay listing (#131609039715)

Woman blue dress 5225 02c 144 px

Compare it to the photos of my silhouette at

He has even reproduced the horizontal crease in the original.  The only difference is that he extended her dress beyond the églomisé glass mat so that he could put it in a rectangular frame.

I would appreciate if some of you would send him a message through ebay telling him that his blatant use of copyrighted material is disgraceful and he should stop doing it immediately!

What’s wrong with the signature?

fullOkay, here’s another “Edouart” on ebay. Ends today, It looks pretty good until you look at the signature…actually signatures as the piece is signed twice.  So, students, what’s wrong with the signature(s)?

First, why would he sign it twice?  It appears that the man $_57was placed over the first signature so the artist felt the need to sign again.  Edouart was too much of a perfectionist to have done something so unprofessional.

signSecond, it’s not Edouart’s signature.  He signed his name with a superscript “n” at the end of his first name (as in Augn.–sorry but I can’t do superscript in this blog).  He never used a superscript “t”.  His first name was Augustin, not August as the early reference books call him.

I can’t see the color of the ink although it looks pretty dark.  But look at the ink splotch in the word “Fecit”.  Again, very unprofessional supposedly from a man who was the consummate professional.  He also did not use a capital “F” in “fecit” preferring to use a non-capital.

Look again at the partially hidden signature.  It appears to use both a superscript “t” and then a superscript “n” and has partially rubbed out the “t”.  Again, this is not something Edouart would do.

The overall piece looks fairly much like Edouart’s work.  But you have to be an investigator to avoid buying the wrong thing.  You can see the ebay listing at  It’s titled “August Edouart 1841 Silhouette of Man and Woman Signed Great Collectible”, it ends in 10 hours and it currently is at $450 with 12 bids.

Edouart children Phili 4695 05 signature 300pxHere is an example of Edouart’s real signature.


Final note: The “Edouart” with the totally fake signature sold on ebay for $876 with 15 bids by 6 bidders. I can almost assure you that it will end up back on the market to sell again at an even higher price. Please look at things closely before you buy them and learn what to look for in high priced items.
bh writes: Peggy, what about the A? I thought his A’s were always rounded. Also, what about this one? It seems too slanted to the right.
BH, Thanks for your note.  Edouart’s “A” was usually rounded, but it seems that sometimes he did use the capital A.  As for the link you sent, this silhouette is fake and has been offered and passed before.  The first time the auction house offered it, they also had a fake one that was supposedly from Natches, Mississippi and dated the same date as this one, purportedly from New Orleans, Louisiana.  Now, Natches and New Orleans are 170 miles apart.  Making it from one point to the other in 1844 and taking silhouettes in both places on the same day would have been quite a feat–even for someone with Edouart’s skills!

“the original black silhouette” — Really?



fake Brown ebay 150504 01Okay, a silhouette reproduction of a work by William Henry Brown has shown up on email and I’m really not sure whether to give the seller the benefit of the doubt that he/she doesn’t know, or just think “What a scam!”.

The title of the ebay listing is “Antique 1844 Silhouette Of Samuel Lewis Southard, By W. H. Brown, Framed

The description says:

Antique 1844 Silhouette Of Samuel Lewis Southard, By W. H. Brown, Framed / Window measures approximately 10-1/2″H x 6-1/2″W. / Frame measures approximately 15-1/2″H x 11-1/2″W. / Marked on the bottom: /”From Life By W. H. Brown, 1844 / Samuel Lewis Southard”. / This is the original black silhouette with added white details. / The pencil guidelines for the text are still visible. / Piece is framed, matted and protected behind glass. / General wear from use and age. / Paper has some yellowing. / Exact age of print is unknown. / No known provenance.

What does the description mean?  Is it an “Antique 1844 Silhouette … by W.H. Brown” and “the original black silhouette” or is it a print of unknown age because it does say “Exact age of print is unknown”?  For real?  How many of you think this is an original 1844 silhouette by Brown?  Is it an antique from 1844 or does the seller not know the date?  Is it an original or is a print?   Is it a seller who has no business selling things like this because he/she doesn’t know enough or care enough to learn, or is it just a scam?

fake Brown ebay 150504 02Look at the quality and how dark black the black ink is.  It’s definitely not from 1844 and it is definitely not an original done by Brown.

Ogden Silhouette by Edouart–is it real?

Ogden 01There is currently a silhouette on ebay (ending today) that purports to be by Augustin Edouart.  There are now 6 bidders who have left 15 bids with a bit more than 4 hours to go on the listing.  The listing can be found at  I’ve watched this listing and hesitated to say anything because the figures are very good but there are some things that really bother me about the piece.  First, there is a figure of John Ogden by Edouart in the National Portrait which is very close but not an exact duplicate.  That, in itself, is not a game-changer because the figure in the NPG is part of a folio of important Americans that Edouart did for himself and for marketing.  Those silhouettes are not exact duplicates and most were probably cut from looking at his regular duplicate folio so that they have slight differences.  But the background is much more precise and crisp than any background than I have ever seen used by Edouart.  That’s a real clue.  Then compare signatures and notations.  Ogden 02  See first the inscription from the ebay listing with Ogden’s name and the place of the supposed cutting “Saratoga”.  Now compare it with a real Edouart notation and see how the “S” in Saratoga is different. Also, on the ebay listing, look at how dark the writing is–more black than brown.  It should have faded to brown.

Edouart Ticonderoga background 5427 02 sign 300pxBut, also, when you look closely at the writing, it almost appears that it has been traced over a lighter notation.  The “O” in Ogden appears very tentative.  This might suggest that someone tried to reproduce Edouart’s signature lightly at first, then went back over it to sharpen it up.  But I’ve never seen Edouart’s writing so tentative.  One thing that Edouart never seemed to be was tentative.

Ogden 03Now, let’s look at the part of the inscription under Mary Ogden’s figure.  Again, it seems to have been traced over and, in my opinion, the signature does not look like Edouart’s true signature.  Also, note her feet which are long, thin, and oddly shaped–almost like the witch’s feet from Wizard of Oz.

Theed 09c Mrs Theed 144 pxCompare Mary Ogden’s feet with Mrs. Theed’s feet from a real Edouart…and, compare the writing.

Is it real or fake?  Well, everyone has to decide for themselves.  The figures are nicely done, with the Ogden 04possible complaint that the cutting on the heads are not quite smooth enough for Edouart.  But, there are enough warning signs that I won’t be bidding.

Oh, goodness, here is something I just noticed and should warn you away from the silhouette.  Look at Edouart’s signature under Mary Ogden.  It is “Aug” with a superscript “st”.  Edouart signed his name “Aug” with a superscript “n” for Augustin….not Auguste which he is often called in modern times.

 As a reader pointed out with a comment, the fake Edouart brought more than $400 on ebay.  It had 8 bidders who placed a total of 25 bids.


Answer to a question I received

il_570xN_740781700_qx11I received this query through the blog.  Since it doesn’t really apply to any of my previous postings, I am running it as a separate post:

Julie says:  Your website is a fantastic treasure trove of information. I know you charge for appraisals, but this is not a query about that. It is about the typed silhouettes these could be…are these modern in old frames…Ive never seen the like. I’d like to know if you had. Again, more for information/history….I do not care about the value. Here is the etsy link:

Peggy’s response:  The silhouettes you asked about are reproductions of 18th century silhouettes by Charles Buncombe.  They were likely done in the early 20th century by one of the big houses like Borghese.  The labels on the backs were either pulled off sometime in their history or the seller chose not to photograph the labels.  Unfortunately, the early 20th century repros are usually sold as the original thing and since paper has aged, people who cannot tell the difference between 18th, 19th, and 20th century paper thing they have something really early.  That goes for sellers also since most antique dealers are generalists and don’t know the earmarks of such a narrow field of focus.

Note:  I had not read the title of the etsy listing before responding to Julie, but I would like to note that, in the title of the listing, the seller did note that the silhouettes were of late 19th to early 20th century work.  In my book, that puts the seller heads and shoulders above many, many other sellers of these repros.

Second note:  I don’t charge for appraisals, I just don’t do monetary appraisals.  There is a conflict of interest for any antique dealer who looks at something she/he might be interested in buying and tells the owner what the piece is “worth”.