Auguste Edouart Free-Cut Silhouettes, ca. 1845
Appraised Value: $6,000 - $8,000
IMAGE: 1 of 2
Appraisal Video: (3:52)
Senior Vice President & Director, American Folk Art
GUEST: This is something I chose from my grandmother's estate when she passed away, all the grandkids were able to find something that meant something to them within the house. and this, I was always attracted to as a young boy, and it's hanging in my office today and I love it. If we start here in the upper corner, that's George Ticknor. He was a historian and a critic. Next to him on the top is Sylvanus Thayer. He was a colonel in the U.S. Army. And down here in the lower corner is Daniel Webster, one of our famous New England statesmen. And then next to him is Levi Woodbury. He was Secretary of the Treasury.
APPRAISER: These are works by a silhouette artist called Auguste Edouart. And he was born in France in 1789. Left fairly early in his career and made a great name for himself as a silhouette artist in London and in Scotland and other places in the British Isles. In 1838, he came to New York, and he was the most prolific and most successful of all silhouette artists, probably for all time. And his goal was to create silhouette portraits of the most notable Americans that he could find.
GUEST: Were the silhouettes based on actual images of the people?
APPRAISER: Actual sittings.
APPRAISER: These were made in a method that's called free cut. Edouart is sitting there with very sharp scissors and he's cutting these things out by hand.
GUEST: As he's looking at them?
APPRAISER: As he's looking at them. He made duplicates of everything. One was given to the subject with his name inscribed on the front.
APPRAISER: And one went into a sort of inventory book that Edouart kept for himself.
GUEST: Okay, very interesting.
APPRAISER: And over the time that he was in America, he compiled over 10,000 silhouettes. These range in date. They were all individually done at different times, but the overall date is something from 1840 to 1846. The one that is really interesting to me is this one of Daniel Webster. It says here "Taken 20 July, 1840 at Saratoga." And then it's signed, "Auguste Edouart, facet"-- made it.
GUEST: I never knew what that said.
APPRAISER: Edouart, being very entrepreneurial, went to some of the best-known resort areas in America to find the subject for his silhouette portraits. Edouart returned to England in 1849 aboard a ship called the Oneida. And it was shipwrecked.
APPRAISER: And most of his archival records and duplicates were lost in that shipwreck.
GUEST: Lost at sea.
APPRAISER: So the value and the rarity of what was left is even greater. So, we've done a little computation here, and they are worth something in the vicinity of $1,500 to $2,000 per silhouette.
GUEST: Per silhouette.
APPRAISER: Because they're important people.
APPRAISER: And so we're talking about something that's in the range of $6,000 to $8,000 at auction.
GUEST: Very good.
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