Mrs. Ball Hughes
Nov. 2, 1842
Courtesy of Frederick R. Brown III
Silhouettes were most commonly a human portrait in profile, without facial expression. Paper silhouettes were usually a portrait on black paper, pasted on a white background according to Bolton in Wax Portraits and Silhouettes Second Edition, by Ethel Stanton Bolton, The Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America, Boston: 1915, p. 35. Bolton writes of American silhouettes and silhouettists, including Edouart, on pp. 27-71 of Wax Portraits and Silhouettes available on Google Books. Silhouettes were inexpensive and popular before the invention of the camera.
Silhouette portrait of little Miss Hughes and her father, Ball Hughes, making a bust of August Edouart, the artist
Nov. 2, 1842
Courtesy of Frederick R. Brown III
Little Miss Hughes is probably the younger daughter, Augusta (1832-1914), holding the Ball Hughes pet cockatoo. Augusta would have been 10 years old at the time and her sister, Georgina, would have been 13.
Regarding the bird in the silhouette above, "The Sketch of the Life of Robert Ball Hughes," by Mrs. E. Ball Hughes, records "The family was not large but very cheerful. His wife and two sweet daughters, a large white Cockatoo, and a King Charlie Spaniel. The bird had been a family pet for 17 years - and Barnaby Rudge never took more comfort with his Raven Grip than did the Sculptor with his beautiful bird." The name Barnaby Rudge was a character in Charles Dickens' Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty. According to David Perdue's CharlesDickensPage.com, "Barnaby Rudge, a local idiot, wanders in and out of the story with his pet raven, Grip." Dickens had a beloved pet raven named Grip.
The silhouette of Ball Hughes engaged in his work by August Edouart was mentioned in the following article in The Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago, Volume VII, Number IV, April, 1914. It's presumably the "Silhouette portrait of little Miss Hughes and her father, Ball Hughes, making a bust of August Edouart, the artist." The silhouettes were exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago in February 1914 by Arthur S. Vernay, author of The Collection of American Silhouette Portraits Cut by August Edouart.
Edouart cut silhouettes in doubled black paper by hand, with the duplicates for his books which contained upwards of 100,000, according to www.PaperCutters.info. He was in the United States from about 1839 to 1849 where he cut portraits of presidents, soldiers, sailor, senators, and the famous men and women according to Papercutters.com. His name has been spelled: August, Auguste, and Augustin.
Edouart visited Boston in 1841 when he was about 50 years old and lived there for a time in 1843 (I can't remember the reference to 1843). According to the Appendix in Auguste Edouart's Silhouettes of Eminent Americans 1839 - 1844 by Andrew Oliver, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution by UP of Virginia, 1977, Edouart cut 4 silhouettes of the Ball Hughes family in Boston on Nov. 2, 1842 including "Hughes, Ball, sculptor from London, doing a bust of Edouart" and "Hughes, Mrs. Ball." The book by Oliver is apparently an edited version of the original 1926 book by Emily Jackson by the same name (see below). Vernay's book is apparently based on Emily Jackson's list and notes according to antique silhouette collector and consultant, Peggy McClard.
According to the Appendix to Oliver's book, Edouart also did a silhouette of Ball Hughes daughter Augusta and one of daughter Georgina at the same time as the ones above. Unfortunately, none of the 4 Ball Hughes silhouettes appear in Oliver's book.
The two silhouettes above are especially amusing since Edouart put himself in the silhouette of Ball Hughes making a bust of Edouart. He did this in another silhouette of himself cutting a silhouette of himself available on Charles Burns excellent Virtual Silhouette Parlor. These people were very humorous in the 1800's! According to Burns, Edouart had quite an ego to go with his skill. I don't know if Ball Hughes actually made a bust of Edouart but he may have reciprocated as he had done in the past with painter, John Trumbull. I would be interested to know if he did and where it is today. The following silhouette may provide the answer to the first question.
Fenderich with bust of Augustus Edouart
Note how the silhouette of the bust of Edouart in the image above looks similar to the "Silhouette portrait of little Miss Hughes and her father, Ball Hughes, making a bust of August Edouart, the artist."
Charles Fenderich (1805-1887) was a portrait artist who was born in Switzerland and came to the United States in 1830. This silhouette looks like it could be by Edouart. He may have made the silhouette while Fenderich was visiting him at his residence, again placing himself in a silhouette. This silhouette is on a lithographed background, customary for Edouart according to Charles Burns in his Virtual Silhouette Parlor.
Many of Edouart's portraits were lost in a shipwreck on his return to France in 1849. Some of his books were recovered and rediscovered years later. I found three books (among several others) that contain some of his surviving portraits, they are:
August Edouart: A Quaker Album: American and English Duplicate Silhouettes, 1827-1845 by Helen Laughon, Cheswick Press, Richmand: 1987. (Contains a comprehensive bibliography but no silhouettes of the Ball Hughes family.
Catalogue of 3,800 Named and Dated American Silhouette Portraits by August Edouart by Augustin Amant Constant Fidele Edouart, Emily Jackson, Wakeman Typ, 1926. This book has apparently been edited and reprinted as Auguste Edouart's Silhouettes of Eminent Americans 1839 - 1844 by Augustin Amant Constant Fidele Edouart, Andrew Oliver, Emily Jackson, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution by UP of Virginia, 1977.
The Collection of American Silhouette Portraits Cut by August Edouart by Arthur S. Vernay, New York: 1913.
I wondered if either of the books by Jackson or Vernay contained any ot the Ball Hughes family silhouettes. I got the answer in an email from Peggy McClard of Peggy McClard Americana & Folk Art:
I replied that I can stop looking for those two books now! I wonder if the Ball Hughes family silhouettes were published in any books? The ones in my family appear to be from a book since they have a caption printed below them. I also wonder what happened to the originals that Edouart presumably gave to the Ball Hughes family and the duplicates that Vernay acquired?
Silhouette: The Art of the Shadow by Emma Rutherford, 2009, available on Amazon.com.
Auguste Edouart's Silhouettes of Eminent Americans 1839 - 1844 by Augustin Amant Constant Fidele Edouart, Andrew Oliver, Emily Jackson, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution by UP of Virginia, 1977 , available on Amazon.com.
Wax Portraits and Silhouettes Second Edition, by Ethel Stanton Bolton, The Massachusetts Society of the Colonial Dames of America, Boston: 1915, pp. 54-64.
Social Life in Old New England by Mary Caroline Crawford, Boston, Little, Brown, and Company: 1914, pp. 343-345.
The History of Silhouettes by E. Nevill Jackson, London: The Connoisseur, 1911, available through the Internet Archive.
What happened to the original and duplicate silhouettes of the Ball Hughes family?
last update 9/4/2012