Auguste Edouart: 1842 Silhouette of Misses Burroughs of Boston

This Silhouette from 1842 depicts a domestic scene on how the artist Auguste Edouart saw Mrs. Burroughs and her children. The Silhouette picture has been enhanced by the use of watercolor in a very pretty and delicate way. The inscription reads: “Presented to the Misses Burroughs of Boston by their Humble and Obedient Servant.”

Silhouettes made of paper such as this, were also called papercuttings. The art of papercuttings came to Europe from China and Persia in the 17th century and became very popular in the 18th century. There were several methods on how paper cuttings were made:

Special papercutting artists would cut the object or silhouette of a person’s head by looking at the object without prior tracing or drawing required. A portrait could also have been created by tracing a shadow of a person’s head that was illuminated by a light such as a candle.

Auguste Edouart was a French silhouette artist who moved to London in 1814. He established himself as a famous silhouette artist. From the 1820s onward he traveled through England, Scotland and the United States. Between 1839 and 1849 he stayed in New England, including Boston, and New York before returning to France.

In 1841 Edouart created a silhouette portrait of Reverend Dr. Charles Burroughs. Charles Burroughs, born in Boston 1787, was Rector at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Portsmouth, NH but also, among several other titles, President of the General Theological Library in Boston, MA. He had residences in Portsmouth as well as Boston. In Portsmouth, he owned Governor John Langdon House (see Marion Harland, More Colonial Homesteads and their Stories, p. 422). The portrait of Charles Burroughs is owned by the regional heritage organization Historic New England.

As Charles Burroughs married Anne R. Pierce in 1823, he might have had children. We can’t be sure but it is possible that the silhouette in the Hyland House Museum collection is depicting Charles and Anne Burroughs’ descendants or relatives.

If you are inspired by the old art of silhouettes, follow the link below to create a silhouette portrait using modern tools.

Make your own Silhouette Portrait

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