This important and decorative reverse painted silhouette on glass dates to the early 19th century. The sitter is Killian Killian Van Rensselaer (born June 9th 1763 – died June 18th 1845). The Van Rensselaer’s were a prominent Dutch family in New York in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. Killian was an American lawyer and Federalist politician who served in the United States Congress as a representative from the State of New York. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1801 and served for 10 years until 1811.
Killian K Van Rensselaer was the fourth son of Colonel Killiaen Van Rensselaer (1717 – 1781) and his wife, Ariantje Schuyler (1720 – 1763). Colonel Van Rensselaer fought during the American Revolution, he was injured in the Battles of Saratoga and received compliments about his courage from General George Washington.
This silhouette is after the portrait and engraving by the French portraitist Charles Balthazar Julien Fevret de Saint–Memin (b 1770 – d 1852). Saint-Memin drew and then engraved his drawing of Killian K Van Rensselaer in 1805; this silhouette is identical to the engraving, it is also the same size as the engraving. We are unsure if Saint-Memin actually produced the silhouette, there are records of Saint-Memin and his business partner Thomas Bluget de Valdenuit (1763-1846) producing silhouettes as part of their package deal which is outlined below. Saint-Memin also used Eglomise mats to display his paintings, the use of black and gold leaf is similar in technique to this silhouette.
‘By 1796 he turned to the more remunerative field of portraiture and offered a “package deal” that artists in France had found Successful a decade or so before. He would draw a life-size, bust length profile portrait of a sitter, then engrave the reduced image on a small copperplate and print a dozen impressions.’ – pg 56 in Albany Institute of History & Art: 200 Years of Collecting, Edited by Tammis K. Groft and Mary Alice Mackay.
Please see Object Number: 1945.344 in the New York Historical Society Museum and Library for an example of a silhouette produced by De Valdenuit and Saint-Memin.
Please see pg 779 and 780 in ‘British Silhouette Artists and their work 1760-1860 by Sue McKechnie’ for a through description of Saint-Memin’s work.
Measuring: Frame width 6.75 inch (17 cm) by height 7.5 inch (19 cm). Frame depth 1 inch (2.5 cm). Glass width 3.75 inch (9.5 cm) by height 4 5/8 inch (11.8 cm).
Condition: The silhouette is in good condition, there is a fiber strand behind the glass. The frame is in good condition with some minor bumping to the maple veneer.
This is a one off reverse painted silhouette of a US Congressman, the perfect item for anyone with an interest in American political history. This is a wonderful addition to any silhouette collection.
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