Silhouette (profile) portraiture was the popular way to recreate an image of oneself or loved one before the invention and common use of photography in the mid 1800s. During the years of 1500 and 1860, professional and amateur artists would either paint or cut profiles – using paints or scissors.
Photography was developed in 1829, and improved steadily and enthusiastically. When portrait photography became possible around 1840, silhouette portraiture was on a downhill slide. “From today, painting is dead!” exclaimed Paul Delaroche (1839).
Photographic portraits varied widely in price, up to the tremendous fee of $10, even when average prices for a shirt were less than $1. But the improvements in photographic processes through the decades of the 1800s meant that photography was becoming the new portrait form.
(Images © Robert E. Jackson)