2010 | 8 | 1 | 9-19
Article title

Silhouette -XVIII-wieczny portret sylwetowy i źródła jego powstania

Title variants
Silhouette- the 18th-Century Silhouette Portrait and Its Origins
Languages of publication
In the latter half of the 18thcentury Europe witnessed the period of fascination with the portrait, in which the individual features of the model were defined by the contour of facial profile, filled with dark, usually black color, and drawn on a contrasting light background. Portraits with dark-contoured facial silhouettes replaced the traditionally painted pictures. They were most often of miniature size, which made it possible to place them on snuffboxes, brooches, pendants, earrings, and bracelets; they also adorned buttons, buckles, pins, and watches.The invention of silhouette portraits is most often attributed to Étienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), a French finance minister. However, Silhouette's position as the first inventor of silhouette portraits is sometimes challenged because the first silhouette portraits were made already a hundred years earlier in the 1660s and 1670s. It is believed that for the formation of the silhouette portrait, figures in the Chinese shadow theater may have been of importance: the theater was popular in the East as early as in the 3rdcentury BC, and in Europe from the end of the 17thcentury. A significant contribution to the rise of silhouette portraits may have also been spectacles with magic lanterns, the devices that bewitched European audiences since their first shows in the 1640s. Moreover, the development of silhouette portraits may have been influenced by the qualities of contour drawing discovered by Europe in the mid-18thcentury on the wave of interest in antiquity and in the Greek skiagram. The problems connected with the silhouette were investigated by Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801) in his studies. Interpretations of the shadow cast by the human figure resulted in the development of a discipline known as physiognomy and in the development of theoretical studies, which tried to read the moral and mental properties of a given man from the silhouette of a human figure. Tremendous demand for silhouette portraits in the 18thcentury led to the invention of mechanical devices that enabled production of any number of such portraits. One of the most popular devices was the machine known asphysionotrace.The virtues of silhouette portraits lost their importance, however, when in 1839 Louis Daguerre (1787-1851) presented his new device: a camera. It exceeded in precision and image fidelity not only handicraft portraits made in all techniques known at the time but also all known "machines for drawing silhouettes", which soon slipped into complete oblivion.
Physical description
  • Instytut Sztuk Pięknych UMCS
Document Type
Publication order reference
YADDA identifier
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