Wednesday

Rare Letton Silhouette




A very unusual silhouette appeared on eBay recently with an inscription, "this profile taken by r litton june 16 1806." There is no doubt it is by Ralph Letton (see my short bio on him somewhere on this site). The silhouette is a hollow-cut that has been folded to fit a frame with numerous sewing in the tears of the paper. It brought $31.


As Letton never signed his works, this image is an important reference/link to his works. It has some similarities to William King's hanging hair and cravat. This profile is well-cut with rounded facial details. The bust termination is unique. The only reference to Letton appears in an illustration by Carrick where she illustrates an example from a broadside. For having major similarities with the broadside, I listed a pair of man/woman hollow-cuts under "for sale" items as possibly cut by Letton. Although they differ from the bust type of this eBay item, my attribution to this artist is secure.

The present silhouette likely originated from a collection of the 19th century silhouettes and photographs that was auctioned off a few years ago. I recall having obtained several pieces from this collection with similarly sewn repairs. It is a shame that this silhouette went begging for a trifle sum. Letton is very rare; in fact, he is unobtainable. But then, how does a rarity serve when the market makers know nothing about this artist? Aside from the little information Carrick provides and the writings contained herein (Letton's bio), have anyone really read anything about Letton? If a reader knows more abou the subject, please be kind enough to provide the same.