Between 1760 and 1830, the silhouette, fashioned as a paper cut-out or a drawing, was extremely popular among both men and women of the middle class as well as the aristocracy. In parlours and private gatherings of friends, silhouettes were easy and inexpensive to produce and therefore popular collectibles and barter objects. Mechanical tools such as special silhouette chairs or other instruments designed to replicate profiles accurately were widespread.
RECEPTION OF ANTIQUITY AND SILHOUETTE
In accordance with the classical concept of art, the silhouette merged with the ancient mythos of the creation of portrait painting. An apparently archaic practice was used to create pictures, which were similar to the Greek vase paintings. This practise had been rediscovered and updated in the 18th Century. Thus, the palm-sized portraits enjoyed a good reputation, even among the scholars. By collecting the silhouettes, one could appear to be a connoisseur of antique art.
FROM THE SILHOUETTE CHAIR TO THE CONFESSIONAL
The practice of creating silhouettes received a further boost by the pastor and philosopher Johann Caspar Lavater (1741-1801), who viewed it as an expression of human character. He reduced faces to mechanically produced profile lines and extrapolated the innermost virtues out of their external appearances. With this controversial theory, the study of the silhouette was seen as an objective portrayal of the soul.