Sunday

William Chamberlain Mystery Solved?





I always had a theory that William Chamberlain carted around a catalog of his images along with precut busts. The clients would thumb through the catalog and pick the design they wanted. It did not matter whether the sitters wore raggedy attire or their birthday suits. Chamberlain had a full stock of suits, pre-cut and ready to be finished. We all agree that his silhouettes are cut in two separate hollow-cuts: the face and the bust.

My theory is that Chamberlain had a number of precut bust designs. When a client chooses a certain bust design from the catalog marked “No. 12,” Chamberlain would reach into his drawer and pull out a packet marked “No.12.” The bust at this stage may even have been already delineated, penciled and inked, awaiting only the hollow-cut of the face with an addition of the hair details. Although this may sound too wild, is it possible that even the head detail was precut with hair details added on, awaiting only the cutting of the eye, nose, and the lips?

For more on Chamberlain, see my archives.

These photos may prove my theory, or at least some parts of it. The silhouette in black decorated glass belongs to me. The other is from one of the auctions. These cuttings are almost a perfect twin except for minute details. You have to look close.

UPDATE: I am still good with this hunch about carting around generic silhouettes; however, I must now attribute this particular bust termination to Samuel Banton, and not to Chamberlain. I came across two stamped Banton silhouettes since I wrote this several years ago.

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