Tuesday

                        Rare Peale Museum Medal-Token

This token is a rare one! It is about a size of a 50 cent piece. One of the Peales designed it and had Christian Gobrecht (later became chief engraver of the US mint) engrave the dies. Hard to believe today, but this token was struck at the US mint in Philadelphia.

This Philadelphia Museum was called the Peale's Museum once. However, after a few years the name changed from Philadelphia Museum to Peale Museum once again. At any rate, this token was likely sold as a pass (annual pass?) to the public. I am sure a few pieces were given out to Peale's friends as well.

Monday

More Comment on Two Silhouettes

I have a new comment here from Peggy about the two silhouettes we have been discussing. Usually, I place comments under the post, but comments for this particular post is getting too long. So, I will use this space.

We thank Peggy for her follow-up here. I will insert my voice within her comments.

I am completely bewildered as to how you can compare silhouette to silhouette when it suits you and totally dismiss someone else’s comparison. I dare to say your “Peggy is all over the place” is a more than a bit insulting after your replacement of the boy’s bustline and then unsupported conclusion that they are done by the same artist. Where are you seeing that? Did you give us any support for that argument? I fail to see your evidence. Of course they are not carbon copies but the features that I point out point much more to different artists than your replacement of a bust line points to the same artist. The bobble-headed look of the boy is quite substantial evidence that the artist was of much lesser talent than the artist of the young lady.

(I re-read my earlier response, and I fail to find any insults there. I clearly stated that people should look at these two silhouettes as a "whole." How can "the bobble-headed look of the boy" be a "substantial evidence" of anything? People see things differently. I see these silhouettes one way; Peggy sees them another way. I cannot bring in the artist of these silhouettes and have him/her confess. So, let us conclude this discussion about these two silhouettes. I say they were done by the same artist. Peggy says they were done by different artists. We will end it here.)

Peggy continues: As far as whether I have ever seen a reproduction stamp, you are the person who told me that Foster Bros. used a King stamp in their reproductions. The stamp would have either had to be a reproduction or the original being reused…..the exact same point I made.

(Peggy is mistaken here. I never said that. Many of Foster's reproductions are photographed prints of the original. They never made or used reproductions stamps. Perhaps her memory is based on my earlier posts. Here are the two cache links to those posts.)

http://antiquesilhouettes.blogspot.com/2005/11/foster-bros-decorative-silhouettes.html
http://silhouettesamericana.blogspot.com/2008/12/foster-brothers-boston-when-carrick.html

Peggy continues: The clothing on the silhouette I own is not “clearly post-1825”. We cannot see the lapel, but the jacket collar is high and rounded as men’s jacket collars were in the middle of the decade of 1810…and really Bob, do you realize that “circa” means that the date could be 20 years off either way?

(I don't know what Peggy is referring to here about "circa." Did I use that term on this post about these two silhouettes in question? The word "circa" is a subjective term. If she wants it to mean 20 years either way, that is OK with me.)

Peggy writes: Clothing styles did not change suddenly one day….they evolved and there is always leeway for dating. Further, you have no way of knowing when Moses Chapman quit cutting silhouettes—he might have cut until the day he died. We also need to remember that Alice Van Leer Carrick was a pioneer in the area of silhouette cutting. Much information has become available about the silhouette artists she studied since her death and many other artists have come to light. Perhaps the “Chapman Sicciaut” stamp is not Moses Chapman….perhaps we’ve even found another 19th century silhouettist whose name was Chapman Sicciaut. But I have no doubt that my silhouette was made and stamped in the 19th century. I think you are awfully quick to disparage works that you have never seen except by photograph.

(Peggy is correct about the clothing style. Sometimes it is very difficult to date portraits based on clothing. It is true that I have no way of knowing whether Chapman cut silhouettes till he died, although all the reference works mention him working up to around 1810. After that he vanishes, similar to many of the silhouette artists who worked the circuits from 1803-10 period. We are rewarded with another group of cutters, mainly working in New England states, who took hollow-cuts to another level starting in the early 1820s.)

Peggy writes this “Chapman Sicciaut” (actually, Siccavit) may not be Moses Chapman.

I agree with her 100%. There is a chance another Chapman existed. I agree there, too. Whether this group of silhouettes with CHAPMAN SICCAVIT stamp is from the 19th century or not is something we still have to investigate. I am not 100% on it, but I am 99.9% sure that they are not from the 19th century. I hate to bring out the business end on this blog. But I put my money where my mouth is and reduced the selling price of my CHAPMAN SICCAVIT from $750 to $250. I am calling it a rare 20th century original artwork.)

As for Peggy's comment of "I think you are awfully quick to disparage works that you have never seen except by photograph," I can only say that my batting average is excellent. Readers are very welcome to search thru all of my past posts in which I made "calls" based only on photographs. In fact, because I was so 100% on this call about Honeywell silhouette, Peggy thought that I was there to examine this silhouette in person.
This is the link: http://moresilhouettes.blogspot.com/2006_03_01_archive.html

Peggy left a comment there so make sure you click the comment link!

Sunday

Comparison of Silhouettes


Let me first say that I have been a collector of coins by varieties, sub-varieties, and minute varieties for about 35 years now. When I say “minute,” I mean it is like splitting atom. If I were to show you ten different varieties of coins, you would say they all look the same, even if they are not. Because to untrained eyes, they do look the same.

With silhouettes, too, and many other collectibles, it takes many years to develop a “feel” of things. However, time alone is not able to develop this feel. One needs to look at many examples and study them in scrutinizing details. When viewing or comparing silhouettes, one needs to look at them as a whole. I had a few questions as to why I thought the same artist did the two silhouettes on my earlier post. I see things in simpler ways than many of you do, because I look at silhouettes as a whole.

When you look at Plate 1, where do your eyes go? I bet they go straight to the boy’s bust area, where the angles are acute. This is natural because of our animalist instinct. For both sexes, we find chiseled faces much more sexy and attractive compared to round faces. That is why your eyes went to the boy’s bust. Having been mesmerized with the angles, it is now very difficult to imagine the same artist could have cut these two silhouettes. Instead of looking at this pair as a whole, you saw in fragments.

Look at Plate 2. I changed the boy’s bustline slightly and took off the angles. Where did your eyes go first in this instance? I bet your eyes did not dissect these images into fragments. Instead, your stereo vision saw this pair as a whole, and you likely did not concentrate on any one particular area. Because you were not brainwashed in this instance, your views are more moderate. Let me ask you now. Did the same artist cut these two silhouettes? I am sure you will now find likenesses in the facial structure, the necks, inked details of their hair, and the “cheated” bustlines.

We thank Peggy for the following comment.


Sorry but I’m not seeing them as done by the same artist. The boy’s head seems to sit on the strait, columnar neck like a bobble-head. The woman’s neck is much more naturally shaped. The boy’s chin adds to the bobble-head effect while the woman’s chin is much shorter and still gives a more natural look. The inking details around the figures is similar, but I don’t think this is enough to lead to the conclusion that it was the same artist.


The boy’s nose is quite upturned and his lips prominent while the woman has a longer nose and less pronounced lips. The buy has almost no eyelash and the woman has a very long and distinctive eyelash. I just don’t agree that there are enough similarities to say it is the same artist.


I’m not saying that either of them are real 19th century silhouettes, but I don’t think they are the same artist. And, having had a silhouette with the “Chapman Siccauit” stamp and also being quite knowledgeable and experience with early silhouettes, I am quite certain that the stamp was used by a 19th century silhouettist.


The boy with the blue tie may have a reproduction stamp that was used in the early 20th century or the artist who cut the boy might have come across the original stamp that was then reused. The fake early 20th century silhouettes stamped with “Peale’s Museum” and the eagle were cut by a couple by the name of Collins who acquired the original stamp in the 1920s and set about making and selling hundreds or perhaps even thousands of fake silhouettes. You have not convinced me to discount the “Chapman Sicciaut” stamp in all cases.

B. M. Jones responds:

First, let me thank Peggy for her comment. She was nice enough to spend time writing it, and I respect her opinion.


However, Peggy is all over the place with this one. I don't even know why she is comparing the size and design of the sitters' facial features. Nobody is saying these two silhouettes are carbon copy of each other. I am sorry to say Peggy is completely missing my point.


Furthermore, she writes, “The boy with the blue tie may have a reproduction stamp that was used in the early 20th century or the artist who cut the boy might have come across the original stamp that was then reused.” If either of what she writes was true, that is very scary. Can Peggy provide us with one image of this so-called “reproduction stamp”? As I wrote before, I am not questioning the stamp. I am questioning the nature of these cuttings.


Peggy further writes, “And, having had a silhouette with the “Chapman Siccauit” stamp and also being quite knowledgeable and experience with early silhouettes, I am quite certain that the stamp was used by a 19th century silhouettist.” Since she brought out this subject, I illustrate it here as “plate 3.” She sent us this image for our post on 1 May 2007. I, for one, did not even know the existence of such a stamp until 19 Feb 2007, when one of our readers, Jane, sent us a couple of images from her collection.


We need to understand working dates of Moses Chapman. He died in 1821, but he was not cutting silhouettes after 1810 or so. For that reason, any silhouette we attribute to this cutter must resemble those cuttings by other artists of the time. Pre-1810 silhouettes share many similarities. So, if Peggy were to attribute her silhouette (plate 3) to Moses Chapman, she must explain why this sitter is wearing clothing that are clearly post-1825. This silhouette looks nothing like 1803-1810 period.

Thursday

Amazing!


Perhaps, having done this for the last 5 years is paying off; I get about 1200-1500 hits a month nowadays! For such a specialized site, that is super-duper if you know what I mean, and this site is ad free! There is no wheeling-dealing going on here, unlike some other sites.

A few readers may question my views and conclusions on some subjects. First, I do not make up stuff. Second, I do not live in fantasy world. Anyone is free to make an argument on what I write, and I welcome every argument. I do play the devil’s advocate at times, however.

Sometimes, I question authenticity of silhouettes. I feel such challenges are good. I realize some dealers and collectors prefer to feel comfy with what they own, and they either hesitate or would not open a Pandora’s box for any reason. However, such boxes are quite fun to open. We may be rewarded with treasures, or goblins. The thing is we would never know if we keep the box locked.

Investigation of scarcely known silhouettes is like buying a watermelon. When it is priced per pound, we tend to pick the lightest watermelon out of the bunch. On the other hand, if they are all priced the same, say $5 each, we pick the largest. We can agree on this point more or less, can’t we? You may be wondering…what is this guy talking about? I am talking about how we usually pick watermelons based on price and price/weight. What does this have to do anything with “investigation of scarcely known silhouettes”? You have to read between the lines. Think about what I just wrote in bed tonight. You will know!

Tuesday

HEADS UP!


Before one of our readers decides to go out and buy these silhouettes, I offer you my two-cents worth on this series of silhouettes. This type of painted silhouettes on glass (someone paid $1000 for this pair a while ago) are not circa 1800 as sometimes advertised. There was a whole series of these made, mostly of historical figures.

These were produced in factories in the late 1800s and up to the early 1900s. So, I guess we can call them antiques today if we follow the definition guideline. If found in original frames, most will be in this type of veneered frames. They are hefty and good-looking frames. Because all of the frames I have seen had great age to their backs, I am inclined to believe early 19th century wood was used. Veneering was newly applied during the manufacturing process.

Not many are found with their original dustcovers, but if you do find one, there will be a large ink stamp that says, "MADE IN ENGLAND." Of course, if someone is selling it as circa 1800 or early 1800s piece, such paper wrappers would have been quickly disposed of.

The workmanship differs considerably even for a same subject. Some are much better painted than the others are. If you want to add one as a decorative piece, pick one that is well done. What are these things worth? Whatever they bring, I guess.
Chapman Siccavit NOT Moses Chapman
I used to think this stamp belonged to Moses Chapman. I was very wrong! Because there are no known silhouettes with Chapman stamp, I jumped the gun when I saw this particular embossment. However, the more I saw the more I began to doubt.

It is not that these silhouettes are fakes, or that this stamp is a fake. They are what they are. Perhaps, these items were actually made by someone named Chapman, but they are not by Moses Chapman.

What did it for me was this silhouette of a boy with hat (see photo). I recently found this on the internet. It has CHAPMAN SICCAVIT stamp, though a bit weak. I believe this particular silhouette is 20th century. This type of cutting is very much in line with other fantasies of the 1920s and 30s.

 Note: See photo of a girl with fake PEALE stamp. No question whatsoever about this girl and this boy done by the same artist.

After 80-90 years, stock papers have acquired good age tone, not dissimilar in some cases to those of the early 19th century. The artist seemed to have covered many bust styles, some in imitation of 19th century works. Others, like this illustrated example, are new lines. Carrick mentions J. Brown also used SICCAVIT as a part of his stamp. Perhaps, Carrick meant to say Chapman. But if such stamps exist, there is a good chance it is another early 20th century fantasy, likely created by the same artist. Now I believe this SICCAVIT is two words: SIC CAVIT. This may be defined as, "thus beware" or "so beware." I got the message loud and clear now.

Because I misattributed these lesser works to Moses Chapman, who was many times better than this artist, my apologies to him. I just placed some flowers on his gravestone (see photo).

Monday



William Doyle Silhouette

This silhouette brought $944 recently at Northeast Auctions. There were some nice silhouettes there this past week. I will list a few in the coming days from this auction.

But today, we will talk a bit about this Doyle silhouette. I thought $944 was a lot of money for this silhouette, but in auctions bidders get carried away sometimes. This brass-over-wood frame is worn and drabby. The silhouette is very mediocre for Doyle. I wonder who was the lucky winner. I am being sarcastic here! Because....

Would someone be interested in learning why I said that? If so, let me know.

Our faithful reader/contributor Bob writes:

Yes, I would like to know why you said what you said about the Doyle.



B. M. Jones writes:

We thank Bob for his inquiry. No, Bob and I do not work the circuits. I know his email address but that is about all.

In August 1, 2007 post I did a write-up on this baby. You can find it on "19th Century American Silhouettes I Homepage." WOW, that was three years ago already. Time sure flies. Since I wrote that, I saw another one at a show. I may have written something about it somewhere (I really need to index my posts). Then we have this baby over the last weekend. So, that is three strikes for this Doyle. They are all PRINTS!! This one here even has some of the oil/ink marks I talked about. This newest one looks to have been cut into an oval; I can see right thru the frame.

Why would anyone pay $1000 for a print? I can offer them at $5 each, postpaid. Seriously, there are tons of reproduction silhouettes in collections and dealers' inventories. New collectors should invest in good reference books first, read this blog, and attend shows and auctions for educational purposes. Buying of silhouettes can come later. Collectors must arm themselves with knowledge. Although of British artists and their works, I highly recommend securing a copy of Sue McKechnie's book. This is a massive volume full of information one can use. If you cannot afford to spend a few hundred bucks on this book, but can afford to spend much more on silhouettes, there is something wrong there. I call that sad.

Last year at shows, I saw two different Doyles from two dealers that were not Doyles. They both had penciled hair details and penciled signatures. Someone is turning authentic, unsigned 19th century hollow-cut silhouettes into Doyles. They both had altered bustlines with that Doyle notch. I was able to detect them with a 20x glass. In addition, there were erasure marks on head and the signature areas, meaning the alterer kept on writing and erasing until he/she was satisfied with the results. Those alterations are impossible to see with naked eyes, even if you had eagle-eyes.

Let me tell you a real story that happened last year at a show in Connecticut. Mourning items are hot today, very hot. So, when I saw a nice miniature in an unusual frame that was priced at about 50% of retail, I wanted to buy. This dealer has some nice stuff, but they are usually not on the affordable side, at least not to me. I looked at it and looked at it, and wondered why he was pricing it so low. Believe it was around $500 or $600. Obviously, he wanted a quick sale. I looked at it some more. This dealer was trying to sell me a glossy color photo behind a thick glass ! I was furious. He knew what he had. This dealer ain't no fool. I think he got stuck with it and was trying to get out of it. I am like 6'3" and 235 pounds with a very loud, natural voice without raising my voice. I believe he got the message! I just hope none of the readers is a happy owner of that mourning portrait.

So, when I say some of those puffy sleeves just don't jive, I am saying it from the bottom of my heart. Can I prove it? Not yet, but things happen. You know that by reading my blogs.

Sunday




More Kings! But no Queens!
















One of our readers, Brad, writes us. The six photos are his.

For your consideration, I have enclosed photos of another pair of Kings. These were a gift from a dealer friend who purchased them at auction a couple of years ago to get the frames. I have not done anything with them because I own five genuine Kings. I have a collector friend who tells me I am foolish to think that there was only one King cutting silhouettes. But they remain in a drawer.


B. M. Jones writes: Thanks Brad for your contribution. These days I am being overwhelmed with my blog. That's a good thing though.
Without embossing, most American silhouettes are impossible to attribute. However, if you remember my earlier post on Banton silhouettes, quest for truths does pay off sometimes. I am 100% on those Bantons. But that happens only once in a very blue moon.

Your friend is right about King silhouettes having more than one type of bustline. Every artist had at least several. That is why it is so tricky! But the thing is, a car is a car no matter what kind of a car it is. When you see a truck, and someone calls it a car, you know that ain't right. Same with silhouettes. Readers may say I am talking mumbo-jumbo again, but sometimes mumbo-jumbo makes a lot of sense.

Some of his works are so very obvious even without his stamp, because they look very Kingish. On the other hand, some of his works are attributed to him based on his embossment. In that case, the stamp better be a genuine one. I know there is a stamp with W.KING. I have not seen enough of them to do a good investigation. So, we are limited to one stamp that spells KING here. There is only one genuine stamp with KING. This is a very discreet stamp (see photo) and measures only 10mm across and 2mm high. Also, note how there is twice as more space before the letter "K" than there is after the letter "G." This is the ONLY genuine stamp that I recognize.

Nobody has to believe me. You may say that I am talking out of my kazoo once again, and I may be. But the thing is, it is YOUR money that you are spending. Believe me, it ain't no sweat off my kazoo in that case. I, for one, will not spend my money on them.

Although I cannot identify the man's silhouette here, I am a bit secure in saying the woman's silhouette was cut by one of the trio, the trio that applied for a patent, all together. Did these two silhouettes originally had those falling hair over their foreheads? This is something we need to consider, too. Were they cut by this forger with his/her penknife so that they would be more King-like? Detective work continues!

One of our readers, Bob, comments:

I have to agree that the silhouettes don't look like those by William King. To my eye, there's something about the type face (if it's correct to use that term) that looks relatively modern and not of the period as well.


There's ample precedent for faked die stamps on both spurious and genuinely old silhouettes in order to increase their commercial value. I suspect that's what's going on here.

In the clock world, same thing at work. A convincing "E. Howard" stamp on movement of a Howard "style" banjo or on a replacement movement that's been stuck into a genuine case has the effect of moving the object from momza to hot ticket.




Tintype Photographs of Early 19th Century Hollow-Cuts
We have another nice addition from Bob, and we thank him for sharing them with us.

He writes: "Thought I would send along 2 tintypes of silhouettes, one of a man, another of a woman. I consider these early photographic images of silhouettes interesting "go withs" to a silhouette collection.

The tintypes are in their original paper frames with arched openings with embossed star boarders. I had them framed by a friend and dealer who specializes in period frames so they were protected. The silhouette of the man is in nice condition. That of the woman has suffered from flaking but I consider to be in presentable condition."

Saturday




Silhouettes by King: But which King is this King?

I found this silhouette on an internet auction. It brought $316. This is a double-silhouette. Because I did not examine it in person, I have no idea whether this is a genuine, period double-silhouette or not. Genuine double-silhouettes are very rare!

However, whether it is genuine or not at this stage of its life is really moot. Someone made a copy die (embossing stamp) and stamped the paper twice. Genuine "KING" dies are well recorded. This ain't one of them. You may say there is a chance of an unrecorded die existing. Yup, there is always that chance. BUT, silhouettes cut by William King must look like silhouettes cut by William King. There is nothing here with these two silhouettes that point to King. You may say the falling hair on their foreheads is a sure sign of his work. I'd say so what; many silhouette artists worked in similar style.

This embossing die is very crude. If everyone knew what genuine stamps looked like, and what genuine King's silhouettes looked like, nobody would have placed bids on this item. We should attribute this work not to William King but to John King of CNN instead (LOL).

Alice van Leer Carrick is my idol. She left us her monumental book on American silhouettes, but she was not a researcher on the subject. She wrote her books in casual manner, almost like diaries, with dreamy flairs of fiction added in. She wrote authoritatively, but some of what she wrote was pure BS. She made it sound as though she knew much more than she actually knew. Her intention was good, and we should thank her for her contribution. After all, nobody has written about American silhouettes since 1928!!!

Yes, I have more bad news about another group of silhouettes. This group had me going around in circles for a few years now. My reasoning is somewhat similar to the above King double-silhouette: good silhouettes (some are) but with bogus stamp. For a while, I really thought this particular stamp was good. It is good, actually. It is a good stamp that occurs with some good silhouettes. In other cases, it is a good stamp that occurs with some bad silhouettes. I know this stuff sounds confusing, but you will see what I mean when I get it all together. When? Real soon I hope.

NOTE: The following comment comes to me anonymously. Writers are not required to identify themselves when leaving comments. They can use pseudo, if they wish. Believe me when I say I have no way of tracking them. This comment is very good and deserves to be answered. I will find the time to do so soon.

Hello - first I want to continue the praise that others have given you regarding this blog and all the amazing insight that you bring to the field of silhouette collecting. Your views and facts are really eye-opening and educational.


Under the banner of open discussion, I thought I'd add a different opinion regarding the double silhouettes with the large KING stamped signatures. In my humble opinion, I believe these are legitimate King silhouettes.

These silhouettes were first sold at a Leslie Hindman (IL) auction and I was able to preview them before the sale. I actually did take the portrait apart to examine the insides. In the end I chose not to bid but only because this silhouette was lotted with another large family group portrait which I had no interest in purchasing. Anyway - the paper was early wove with some warbling/warping on the outer edges (it was quite large). The backside had a large misshaped piece of silk that covered about 75% of the paper. When removing the silk backing the entire area that was covered remained a white light color while the non-covered areas had toned darker due to sunlight/acids/time. I believe this was a solid indication that the paper and silk had always been together, had great age and the cuttings were indeed early 19th c. (I guess with science these days, someone could potentially replicate this effect but that just seems like a lot of work for little payoff.) As you mentioned in your blog, though, the question of their age wasn't the overriding issue - it was whether these rare double-cut silhouettes were true William King examples.

Next, in prep for the auction (since there were many lots of silhouettes), I broke out my reference books and refreshed my memory on artist styles. In this blog there was some question reqarding the bustlines and overall style of the cuttings. I normally think of King's male bustlines having a curving backside coming to a point on the front bustline. But, in Carrick's book betw. pages 54-55 there are images at the bottom of a male King silhouette with curving front AND back bustlines. And, more importantly, the female bustline shows a stepped-down bustline nearly identical to the woman's bustline in this silhouette we're discussing. Carrick's attribution of these silhouettes to King isn't explained fully (were they stamped or was it oral history that these were from King?) ... we have only her original investigation and declaration to go by, but I feel the early scholarship of these silhouette collecting pioneers can't be discounted easily. Also - back near page 48 there is a King broadside pictured which also shows curving front and back bustlines on a female image. So, I believe we do have other sets of documented examples with these same bustlines.

This leaves us with the question regarding the stamps. I have to admit I am rather uneducated when it comes to stamps and validating early 19th c stamps vs modern ones.

All I can offer is two thoughts: 1) itinerant artists often traveled far and wide and made countless silhouettes (King apparently wildly exaggerated that he cut over 20k examples). Is it possible that the artists broke, lost, or wore down their stamps over time and had to replace them? When traveling to the next large town could they have had new stamps made by different makers, creating the situation where the size of the stamps differed slightly? We know that various artists used multiple signature styles - Peale is an obvious example: as you know many of their silhouettes were unsigned or used at least 3 different stamp styles. King used at least "WKing" and the smaller "KING" styles. Is it possible that he could have used the larger "KING" style too? Your blog shows two sets of examples with the larger stamp and I have seen this stamp on other silhouettes over the past 20 years, so more examples exist (but I realize this still doesn't prove the larger stamp is REAL).

2) after reading about your doubts on the larger "KING" stamp, I started wondering if the few signed silhouettes in my collection were real. I own both "MUSEUM" and "Peale's Museum" stamped silhouettes. In those examples the letters are all capitalized and raised with the background area depressed / flattened - similar to the large KING stamp. Over the years, I've seen stamped signatures being very clear and crisp with strong indentations while others are very light and almost illegible. You allude to the idea of genuine stamps but I can't seem to find much information regarding early 19th c stamps on the internet. I (and I'm sure your readers) would be very grateful if you could shed some more light on this topic. Correctly validating 19th c stamps could effect the appraisal of many signed silhouettes crossing various silhouette artitsts (Bache, Peale, Todd, etc). At this point in time, though, I just don't think there's clear evidence invalidating these large King stamps.

As I mentioned earlier, this is just my opinion and I thought it would be fun to throw out some additional thoughts on the subject. Thanks for reading - and good luck with your research and blogging - keep the posts coming!!

B. M. Jones writes:


First, I need to address this writer in my reply, so I will name him/her “Jan.” I am sure this name works for both sexes. We thank Jan for his/her interesting analysis and inquiry on this subject. For the sake of easiness in grammar, I will just imagine this Jan to be a man. Using “his/her” term is awkward at best. So, in the future (everyone) please just make up a name when leaving comments.


Because Jan says he was able to examine this silhouette in person, I must imagine he lives in Chicago or a drivable distance away. In addition, he must be a regular attendee there and knows the staff. If they saw me trying to remove the nails from the back of the frame, I would have been stopped right there in my tracks. If I had asked the staff to disassemble it, I am sure they would have told me, “We can’t do that, buddy.” I can understand that. If everyone had their paws inside the frames during previews, something may tear or break. After all, if they allowed something like that, I would demand every silhouette to be opened for closer inspection. So, Jan is a lucky man! I, for one, have difficulties removing the nails sometimes, even in comfort of my own home.


Let’s get back to King silhouettes. This frame is not original and not period to this silhouette. It may even have been cut down from a larger piece. Nevertheless, the frame is an OK piece, if you like heaviness in display.


Jan writes, “I believe this was a solid indication that the paper and silk had always been together, had great age and the cuttings were indeed early 19th c.” Jan bases his analysis here upon his examination of the silhouette paper and the toning it acquired. That is good. However, I need to play the devil’s advocate at every opportunity.


Toning of paper is not proof of age. Toning does not indicate age. Toned paper simply means the paper is toned. Some papers that are 100 or 200 years show very little toning. Lack of toning does not mean the paper is new either. As for judging age of the actual hollow-cuts, Jan must know something I don’t. For me, trying to guess the age of paper-cutting using penknife is mind boggling at best.


Our good friend, Jan, further writes, “I feel the early scholarship of these silhouette collecting pioneers can't be discounted easily.” Here, he is referring to Carrick. Jan makes a good point. Carrick did a fine job describing and illustrating many of the stamps, along with many examples of bustlines. However, if we were to follow Jan’s theory, then we must not allow ourselves to believe this “large” KING stamp even exists. Carrick describes King’s stamp as being very small. She does not mention this “large” KING stamp. There would not even be a need to discuss this subject. In all fairness, however, Jan was referring specifically to several styles of King’s bustlines. On the other hand, the relation between King’s stamps and his bustlines are all in relation to each other.


Carrick was very good, but she was like a little kid going around in circles (read my post on her letters written to Rev. Morse just before she published her book on silhouettes). She had a very limited access to loose silhouettes in the 1920s, but she did have good access to some major holdings. Today, we have much more access to silhouettes, thanks to the internet. What took her ten years to accomplish can be accomplished in a year today. That is, if we knew what we are doing.


Jan asks, “Is it possible that the artists broke, lost, or wore down their stamps over time and had to replace them? When traveling to the next large town could they have had new stamps made by different makers, creating the situation where the size of the stamps differed slightly?”


I have to answer “yes” to both questions. There is a possibility for anything and everything. I could buy a lottery ticket and win $5M. We need to look not at possibilities but at probabilities. Jan writes the Peales used three different stamps, so there is a possibility that King, too, used three different stamps. Again, I have to say “yes.” However, such comparison is moot. There is no relation whatsoever between the Peales and King.


Jan also adds, “Over the years, I've seen stamped signatures being very clear and crisp with strong indentations while others are very light and almost illegible.” I’ve written several times on my blog about this subject. If readers are interested, you gotta backtrack to find them. They are there. I just do not know where. This blog series is quite large.


Finally, Jan closes by saying, “At this point in time, though, I just don't think there's clear evidence invalidating these large King stamps.” Jan is absolutely correct! We do not know whether this stamp is from the early 19th or the 20th century, yet. Things come around eventually. Someday, it may be proven this large stamp is real kosher. On the other hand, it may be proven to be from the 20th century. But for now, I would want a known bust style by King with his known tiny stamp for my money. If readers prefer to buy what I call “un-Kingish” bust style with this large stamp, that is fine with me, too. I said this many times: with your money, you do whatever you want with it; with my money, I will do whatever I want to do with it. Basically, that is what it comes down to.


Thursday







Another Discovery Very Rare PEALE Silhouette

There are three distinct embossment from the Peale's Museum: Museum, Peale's Museum, and Peale. We have no problem locating silhouettes embossed with the first two stamps; they are around. However, genuine"Peale" stamp is another matter. Silhouettes with "PEALE" embossment are the rarest American silhouettes. The following is a portion from by blog post, "Embossing and Stamping of Silhouettes at Peale’s Museum," that I wrote a few years ago.

Others have suggested that an embossed “Peale” belonged to Raphaelle Peale during his itinerancy who established the “Peale’s Museum” in Baltimore during the late 1790s and, again, in 1814. With an arrival of the new pantograph invention by Hawkins in 1802 to the main “Museum” in Philadelphia, Rembrandt and his older brother Raphaelle traveled throughout the south and parts of New England for a profile cutting tour. This was a short-lived tour lasting less than two years. The craze of a “machine-assisted” contrivance was also quite short-lived. This was due to infringement of its patent. Every profile cutter during this period possessed one, making minor adjustments to the original patent and attaching fancy scientific labels, thus avoiding patent infringement.

It is quite plausible that “Peale” stamp belonged to one or both of the brothers, and its use was limited only during their period of itinerancy. The rarity of those silhouettes embossed with this stamp is an enigma. Whether the brothers enjoyed a brisk or a sluggish business is difficult to determine. If a survival rate is any indication, the latter speculation may be in order, or perhaps, some or even most of the cuttings were never embossed. Is it possible that the stamping device was misplaced or even stolen during their travels?

Our example here is a very well cut silhouette of a young woman in her teens with falling forelock. The wove paper is nice, slightly off-white with one or two small toning spots. The embossment is quite sharp for these, even more so in person.
The frame is a killer, too. It is pressed brass-over-wood that is in very fine condition. The glass is original with its inclusions and waviness. It has an unusual greenish-gray tint.
CAVEAT EMPTOR: There are plenty of fakes out there of this PEALE type. So, buyer beware!