Silhouettes made with pantograph

Silhouette. John Morton and Mary Robinson Morton. c. 1795. Black paper support: 5 1/2 x 7 ¼" (14 x 18.4 cm). Peale Museum. The two small silhouettes, from Anna Wood’s album of profiles, are approximately one-sixth life size.

Silhouettes were also made with a pantograph, which could trace the person’s actual profile in a reduced size. The pair shown here come from an album put together in the early nineteenth century in Philadelphia. Most of the album’s silhouettes were cut at the Peale Museum in that city, and bear a small blind stamp identifying that source. The subject’s profile was traced by a metal stylus in a pantograph machine, which drew a reduced-size silhouette on a piece of paper. This small outline was then cut by hand, at which point such small embellishments as Mr. Morton’s lock of hair were added. Friends exchanged these beautiful little silhouettes, and put them in albums, in exactly the same way that we put away family snapshots today.