Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cutting a Fine Silhouette

A silhouette is, in one sense, a shadow cast on a surface and in another its a fine paper cutout of an image of a shadow carefully mounted to a contrasting surface.  The one I found at a garage sale last weekend was done in the 1920's when having your silhouette cut at the State Fair was all the rage.  She sure is a fine figure of a woman isn't she?

A little research into the subject of silhouettes quickly brought me to Mary Granville Pendarves Delany who was a British matron of the high society type back in the late 1700's.  The poor dear had been married off to a rich, old alcoholic at the age of 17 and suffered a horrible few years before he died.  During this time the creative pursuit of fine embroidery and other crafts of the times were her solace. Her tools were her constant companions.

When she was 72 years old, she embarked on a new endeavor using her scissors to create some silhouettes. This led to her seminal life achievement, the execution of 1,000 intricately cut and pasted botanical collages which are now in the permanent collection of the British Museum.

Much has been written about Mary and several comprehensive biographies are available online and  for purchase, most include images of her work.  I imagine viewing them in person at the museum would be amazing, but for now... you can follow this link to The British Museum to see some of the wonderful imagery she created.  Mrs. Delany has left her shadow, her silhouette on art history and she did it as an old woman in a culture which valued her and her achievements very little.  Mary Granville, you were a fine figure of a woman indeed.


  1. Wow! I love these silhouettes. Thank you for sharing this link.

  2. So very cool. I have aways wanted to make a silhouette of my girls.

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  4. What a great story to share...thx for doing the research...will check into the Museum pieces to see more...I really enjoy reading your posts...thx for the fun...the other "Janis" girl...xx june