A Charming Late 18thC American Silhouette by Master Hubard


Origin: American
Period: Late Eighteenth Century
Provenance: Master Hubard
Date: c.1790
Width: 5 inches
Height: 6 inches

Presented in a slightly later nineteenth century japanned papier-mache and gilt frame. this delightful little silhouette bears the label verso; ‘Cut with common scissors, by Master Hubard (Aged 13 years) without drawing or machine'. Although spelt with a solitary b we are relatively sure that the labels creator may have missed the second b – making the surname Hubbard; though this is open for debate.

The frame is in reasonable order with one side having a hairline split, with the top beautifully surmounted by an acorn and its leaves, and the reverse recently having been fastened with two clips. There is one bubble to the original glass.

American eighteenth century silhouettes are relatively rare. The American Antiquarian society have on record other unframed silhouettes seemingly by the same hand as we see here detailed as ‘HOMER, Family. 6 ¼" x 8 ½". Cut with scissors by Master Hubbard. Photostat’, ‘91……UNIDENTIFIED, man, By Master Hubbard 4 ¼" x 3" found in a book which belonged to Ruth Richardson of Boston 1803, Presented by the heirs of Francis E. Blake, Nov. 7, 1917’ …..and ‘25. FOSTER, Dwight. 12 ½ x 8cm. By Master Hubbard.’

The traditional method of creating silhouette portraits, as we see here, is to cut them from lightweight black cardboard, and mount them on a pale background. This was the work of specialist artists, often working out of booths at fairs or markets and silhouettes reached the peak of their popularity in the United States from about 1790 to 1840.

Considering this was cut with scissors it shows wonderful dexterity from a youths hand; something we may find more difficult to comprehend today. This is an early example, of American silhouette portraiture illustrated mainly by its simplicity, and although we are unsure of the sitter it doesn’t detract from what is a captivating piece of art.