Saturday

$14,000 Pair of Silhouettes


From the Maine Antiques Digest comes the following: "The pair of hollow-cut silhouettes was one of 11 lots attributed to an unknown silhouette cutter known as the Puffy Sleeve Artist, for that obvious characteristic, and done between 1830 and 1831. This lot was the only pair among the 11 lots. A phone bidder won these for $15,080. The entire 11-lot group (12 silhouettes in all) brought a total of $141,520." Twelve silhouettes for $141K? That is about $12,000 per silhouette.

This reminds me of an antiquity collector in Israel I saw on TV (no relation with the silhouettes and none implied) who appeared on the History Channel. He made countless forgeries to sell to well-to-do collectors and museums throughout the world. His items were very well made, and even the real prophets of the antiquities were fooled for years. One day a geologist-archaeologist performed a number of tests on the stone engravings. He was able to scrape the patina from within the engraved channel of the charcters with a matchstick. The patina was found not to be naturally formed, being of higher temperature than the climate allows for the region in the last 3000 years (40-50C). Further tests revealed the stone came from coastal sites because of minute traces of marine fossils and not from the site originally intended. The crystaline patina was measured using isotope analysis with scientific equipment worth big bucks. All of these exciting TV moments I was saying to myself, "look at them things, it is so obvious they are not genuine." Could I prove my subjective thoughts? No, but as I mentioned earlier, somewhere on this HP, once you know good things, you always know what good things look like.

Some twenty years ago, if I remember correctly, a forger from Utah made thousands of fake documents, all well-done and believable. Most of that was Mormon stuff and early American documents. He was able to fool every buyer. He made millions! He used period paper and period handwriting. He also used a quill with artificially toned brown ink. Science is useful and sometimes not so useful. Trying to carbondate these stuff is almost always useless. The main giveaway was the ink. It contained materials that did not exist back then.

A forger of 1907 High Relief St. Gaudens Double Eagle is of another interest. He perfected the art and sold a handful to seasoned numismatists. They were all fooled. Until, too many of these excellent coins surfaced. Even then, the art of science, subjective science, or objective science is unsure of these counterfeits. The main doubt is that there are just too many around, and all of these coins display a very minute, similar characteristic between the details. This is thought to be a signature of the forger. According to this one expert, the forger placed his mark so that this forger can differentiate between genuine and forged coins. What a lousy explanation I thought.
These few examples of forging stories is only the tip of an iceberg. Formation of glacial tills is something we all have to consider. Are they tills or drifts? Till we dig (no pun intended) we never know. Seems as though I am drifting (again, no pun intended) from the main subject (just to clarify: till or until as in glacial till, and drifting as in mechanical or weathering drift).

A silhouette for $12,000 each is something we need to know why. This illustrated pair, one with a trumpet or a bugle, is out of the ordinary. If this is "kosher," it is the only known silhouette with a musical instrument. The frames are period-like, and the subjects seem to be "hollow" without displaying any genuine physiognomy. Of course, my thoughts are subjective. Any other subjective offers out there?

Wednesday

Silhouette by T.P.Jones





Jones was a competent silhouettist. I like his style. Not many of his works are found. But then, he worked with duplicate cuttings, so many of his works are unattributed (see duplicate cuttings without embossment somewhere in this HP). He worked with the plain hollow-cuts and hollow-cuts with inked detailing. This embellished silhouette is from my collection, and I consider it one of the best by Jones. If you owned it, it will be the second best. You know how that works. Whatever Uncle Doddy owns is always the best.

Two more days left for this semester, and I will have some free time till the next racket begins. Hope to write and update my HP. Have some new silhouettes for sale coming up. Some are good stuff. Check them out if time permits.