The word "silhouette" derives from the name of Étienne de Silhouette, a French finance minister who, in 1759, was forced by France's credit crisis during the Seven Years War to impose severe economic demands upon the French people, particularly the wealthy. Because of de Silhouette's austere economies, his name became synonymous with anything done or made cheaply and so with these outline portraits. Prior to the advent of photography, silhouette profiles cut from black card were the cheapest way of recording a person's appearance.
The term "silhouette", although existing from the 18th century, was not applied to the art of portrait-making until the 19th century. In the 18th and early 19th century, “profiles” or “shades” as they were called were made by one of 3 methods: (1) painted on ivory, plaster, paper, card, or in reverse on glass; (2) “hollow-cut” where the negative image was traced and then cut away from light colored paper which was then laid atop a dark background; and (3) “cut & paste” where the figure was cut out of dark paper (usually free-hand) and then pasted onto a light background.

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