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.




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!

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”.

Real or fake?

301365215415 ebay 01        301365215415 ebay 09






Okay readers. Let’s see if I’ve been successful in teaching you about spotting fake Edouarts.  Current ebay listing # 301365215415 is fake.  You can see the listing at

The seller says “Auguste Edouart silhouette of Reverend Henry Anton ,  29 Oct, 1932. His wife Mrs. Agnes Anton, and Master H. Anton,  7 years  Oct 1832.   Frame is not in great condition, but appears to be original to the silhouette.   Back of frame reads folio(?) from Edouarts book of silhouettes. Reverend Anton and Family. Has some discoloration and wear . ”

I’m giving the seller the benefit of the doubt that he/she does not recognize that it is fake.  This seller does not appear to sell many silhouettes….or many antiques.

Question for you–can you tell me the signs that it is fake?  If you click on the photos they will enlarge so you can see them better.301365215415 ebay 05


301365215415 ebay 03

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Liz says: Hi Peggy, Well, let’s see. That scrabble is certainly not Edouart’s handwriting, and the ink appears to be in two different colors. The awkwardly cut figures look like cartoon characters! The feet are particularly bad.

Peggy replies:  Liz is correct on all counts.  Very good observation!  Can anyone else point out any other clues?

Barrett says: “I do not like the frame…”

Peggy replies: The frame is pretty horrible.  If the silhouette was supposed to be a commissioned piece by Edouart, we’d know that the frame was not original because Edouart only framed his pieces in maple frames.  However, this silhouette purports to be from the duplicate folios which were never framed until the 20th century.  Mrs. Jackson and Mr. Vernay only framed duplicates in simple ebonized frames that were made in the early 20th century.  If the silhouette were real, the frame would not be “original”.  Incidentally, the sitter names are not in Mrs. Jackson’s list so they could not have come from any of the folios that she got from the Lukis family.  There have been several folios turn up since that time so not all are in the list.  But, checking the list is always a good place to start when considering purchasing an Edouart duplicate.

More thoughts?

From my Facebook page, Bradley says:  “Everything is wrong. Thanks for the chuckle Peggy! Is that dog wearing a graduation cap?”  and: “She looks to have a baby rabbit on her sleeve and crepe paper flowers on her skirt. And those feet….. I can hear Edouart rolling over.

All very astute observations and comments.  To reader comments, I would add, the man’s collar is not cut far enough back about the jacket and the tails on his coat seem a bit too short for the period (that’s a nit-picky one).  There are no button holes cut in the man’s jacket.  Everyone’s hair is ill-defined (Edouart liked to cut wisps of hair for great definition).  There are no cut eyelashes. The bottom of the hat rim is oddly wavy.  The woman’s hair looks like a blob where Edouart would cut it so that you could see where it was braided and all of the details of the hairstyle and hair comb.  The dog is atrociously cut in pretty much all respects where Edouart cut the most amazing dogs and horses.  The feet are the first dead giveaway that you should learn to spot at a distance.  And, as Bradley commented, they all look like cartoon-characters.

As of today, the ebay listing has two bids for a price of $11.50.  Let’s hope it doesn’t go any further!

Note: The ebay listing ended last night with 3 bidders placing 5 bids.  The “lucky” high bidder got a simply horrific fake silhouette in a pretty awful frame for $33,99 plus shipping.


Beware of Fake Edouart on ebay

clients_wwolst12_photo_sets_54995_ThornerEdouartSihouette__2_ It always disturbs me when I find an outright fake selling anywhere.  I ran across this obviously 20th century fake Edouart being sold by a dealer (business) who sells a large volume of antique items which they take on consignment.  It is very obviously not by Edouart.  Thinking that this dealer business tries to keep a good reputation, I sent a message through ebay telling them the points about this silhouette that prove it is not by Edouart.

My email to the seller said, “You need to know that this silhouette is fake. The cutting is nothing like Edouart, the feet are not positioned correctly, he never cut double eyelashes, the cutting is not smooth and has none of his trademark hair, button holes, cut away collar. The signature is definitely not his and the black ink shows that it is not a period clients_wwolst12_photo_sets_54995_ThornerEdouartSihouette__4_inscription. I know you try to hold up a good reputation. You should take this listing down. You can see many, many real Edouarts on my website”  Edouart never used laid paper, but I forgot to mention that to the seller….my goodness the rest of the list seemed to be sufficient!

I received the following message back from the seller, “Thank you Peggy. I’ll pass the info on to the bosses and consignor.”

That response was yesterday, Friday at 11:02 am.  Today, Saturday, at 2:20 pm, the listing stands as before:

……Auguste Edouart (1789-1861) was a French Silhouettist of human and animals.  In 1825 he began making Silhouettes which he quickly turned into a very successful career for himself. He was one of the few Silhouettists who hand-cut his silhouettes with scissors instead of using some of the popular machines that had been created. He worked throughout Europe until 1839 when he came to America and works in Boston, DC, Philadelphia, New Orleans and New York. When Edouart traveled back to France in 1849 he lost most of his Silhouette duplicates in a shipwreck, he was so devastated by the loss, he never returned to the profession again.

……This auction is for an authentic 19th century Auguste Edouart Silhouette of the important historical American Politician, Henry Clay (1777-1852.) Including the laid-paper this silhouette measures 6” by 9 ½” and the cut-out alone is 7 ½” tall. Hand written along the side of the silhouette is, “Taken at Washington 10 Mar 1841, Aug Edouart, Fecit.” Below this inscription it reads, “Henry Clay Grator [sic], Sect of Flate [sic] Lexington Ky, 1841.” In our photographs you can see that there is toning, as well as some crinkling to the laid-paper up near Clay’s head and along the bottom edge. There is also a tear to the bottom right hand corner of the paper, but the silhouette itself is perfect! This authentic 1841 Auguste Edouart Silhouette of Henery [sic] Clay comes framed under early thin glass in its original 8” by 11 ½” Birdseye Maple veneer frame.

The listing currently has a top bid of $230.50, 18 bids by 6 bidders. The ebay listing is # 351146439877.  The link is

This listing is a real travesty.  Don’t let the high bidder of this fake silhouette be you!

Liz says, “What a horrendous silhouette. I hope the high bidder is perhaps just interested in the frame!”

Peggy responds, I gotta agree with your there Liz. It is horrendous. Unfortunately, too often buyers are swayed by a name attached even if the piece is horrible. The frame is a nice one but pretty chewed up around the edges. The bidding is now on the upper side of the value of that frame.

From Joy, “Years ago we had a call from a Boston “collector” who had dozens of dubious Edouarts. They were all signed like this one, all in period frames, and all had some foxing, as this one appears to. I don’t remember anything about the paper, but if memory serves me, this appears to be from that group.”

Peggy responds, Joy, I’ve seen a number of these that obviously came from the same faker.  Most of the ones I’ve seen in the past have been multiple figures.  Apparently, the faker decided using the name of Henry Clay would allow this fake to stand as an individual.  The entire group of these had this weird double eyelash.  There is also another group with squared off heads–different faker, I’m sure.

Update 8/18/2014.  Thanks to two readers for also contacting this seller about the fake.  After the third complaint from the third person, the seller finally cancelled the ebay listing.  We all know that this silhouette will show up on the market somewhere else so just beware of it and others that have the same characteristics.

From Gary on 5/22/16: It is up for sale now on

Yes readers, this fake Edouart is up for auction from Marian Antique Auctions. Beware of it.

A recent silhouette magazine article I forgot to mention!

Check out the “Collecting” article in the June 2014 issue of Country Living Magazine. It’s about collecting Silhouettes and features 13 pieces from this website. The article is also online at “What to collect: 12 Gorgeous Silhouettes” ( I have no idea why they reference 12 silhouettes in the title since the article has many more than 12 silhouettes!

The article doesn’t have a lot of advanced information (it is, after all, a decorating magazine, not a scholarly publication), but I’m always happy to help develop new silhouette collectors with magazine articles!