Ancient House Museum’s History of Thetford in 100 Objects
PUBLISHED: 11:30 07 February 2017
This month’s object is a silhouette showing two ladies playing chess by candlelight.
This silhouette was taken from an album dating from the 19th century containing more than 100 silhouettes.
In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, silhouettes became popular as a way of capturing likenesses and a cheap but effective alternative to the portrait miniature.
The silhouette album this was taken from shows Thetford people in early 19th century dress, some simply profile portraits and others shown enjoying pastimes.
In this example, the detail of the ladies’ dresses, the chess board and surroundings have been painted in with watercolour for a more complex image. Pencilled in throughout the album are the names of those captured - next to this image are the names M.Gill and S.Gill.
Elegant and enigmatic, the silhouette is often seen as the simplest of art forms.
The easy candlelight method favoured in the 19th century, meant that many amateurs could enjoy creating silhouettes.
However, incredibly skilled specialists could cut a high-quality bust portrait, by far the most common style, in a matter of minutes, working purely by eye.
Often created by women, silhouettes are now known as sentimental keepsakes of the Victorian period.
Last week, Ancient House’s after school History Club worked with our teaching museum trainee Imogen Clarke to create their very own silhouettes inspired by our collection.
Visit Ancient House to see Silhouettes on permanent display.
For more information visit http://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/Visit_us/Ancient_House/index.htm
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