"Black shades", as these were originally called, began being made around the end of the 17th century. Monsieur Étienne de Silhouette, who gave his name to the genre, was merely a gifted enthusiast who covered the walls of his chateau with his efforts, but professionals and amateurs alike delighted in creating minor masterpieces in this now forgotten art. Silhouettes were made by tracing a profile from a shadow cast by a candle on to paper and then reducing it with a machine known as a pantograph. The silhouette was then cut out, painted and framed. The finest practitioners produced quite lovely effects and could charge high prices for their work." - from "Georgian Jewellery", Ginny Redington Dawes with Olivia Collings
Miniature silhouettes were very popular during the late 18th to early 19th centuries. Varying in materials and with a sitting time much quicker than a painted portrait (most profilists advertised a required sitting of only one to five minutes), many people found these portraits accessible as they were far more affordable than their painted portrait counterparts. Some 18th century trade labels mention prices ranging from 2 to 6 shillings, depending on the frame or setting.
This beautiful c.1770s Georgian locket depicts a woman in period dress and and hairstyle painted on ivory. The reverse features plaited hair overlaid with gold initials "JL". A sentimental piece given as a token love or friendship.
Artist Isabella Beetham did not typically sign her portraits however, they are recognizable by their distinctive bust lines. She began her career by cutting the silhouette images. After studying painting with successful miniature portraitist John Smart, Beetham painted silhouettes to be framed or miniatures were made for jewelry. From 1785 to 1809, she had a business on 27 Fleet Street in London, where she produced silhouettes of men and women. She is considered one of the great 18th century silhouette artists, along with John Miers and Auguste Edouart.
The pendant is set in 14-15k yellow gold (not marked, as typical of the time but, acid tested) with 2 convex glass pieces on each side. It measures 40mm across and weighs 11g. There is some light scuffing to glass commensurate with age and use. The locket can be pried open with fingernails, and shuts securely. You will receive the pictured locket.
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