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Prior to the advent of photography in the mid 1800’s, artists would either paint a person’s portrait or cut paper proﬁles ….both popular ways to recreate images for posterity. Paper cut silhouettes were widely popular in the United States from approximately 1790-1840.
This art form was named for the French Finance Minister, Etienne de Silhouette in the mid 1700’s. He was known for doing things cheaply and was also fond of making these images from paper himself. The phrase, “ a la silhouette” ( In The Manner Of ), was applied to things which were clearly made in the simplest form.
Despite their simplicity, they were beautiful and striking resemblances. Many of the highest social class citizens sought to have their image created in this artistic manner.
Paper-cut silhouettes , sometimes known as shadow portraits, did not lose their popularity when photography was oﬃcially invented in 1829. Prominent folks continued to enjoy sitting for a silhouette artist.
In more recent times, these charming images have caught the eye of a new generation who appreciate the Silhouette as a unique way to capture a loved one’s image.