WOW for Honeywell Silhouette

I said that it was a rare silhouette by Honeywell (see below). Perhaps some bidders read my "plug." It brought $900 plus the usual commission for the auction house. Perhaps I should not have opened my big mouth before the auction even started. Was the eyelash drawn by Honeywell? I hope the buyer puts the silhouette in more appropriate frame.

Martha Anne Honeywell Silhouette


This interesting silhouette is from a recent eBay auction. The off-white, background paper has an inscription, “Cut by M. Honeywell with the Mouth, Cincinat(?).” Honeywell always wrote in a slight upright curve; however, this work has an acute downward curve. This is atypical, and it needs to be challenged.

What was the reason for Honeywell writing in this manner?
The square paper was folded to “fit” the round frame. Should not there be “breaks” and discolorations along the folds?
The frame is definitely from the first quarter of the nineteenth-century. Was the silhouette replaced in this frame at much later date? Why was not a standard, rectangular frame used?
What is the significance of the border surrounding the silhouette?
This profile has an eyelash. This is not the norm for Honeywell.

These are difficult questions to answer. Was it actually cut by Honeywell? Could it be a forgery?

Let us assume that the border of the silhouette is a much later addition having no significance attached to the profile itself. However, it is a reminiscent of Honeywell’s “endless knot” work. This similarity mystifies its attribution somewhat. Whether the border was placed there to serve a specific purpose is unknown. The presentation of the oval opening is quite accurate lengthwise but its width indicates that this border was created for another image. The scrollwork has similarities with engine- turned designs of the third quarter of the nineteenth-century.

The folds are somewhat old but not nearly as old as the silhouette. There are indications that the silhouette was placed in this frame many years after the “cutting.” The “foxing” spots on the right, parallel to the bust tip are stabilized and likely contemporaneous with the silhouette. The fold line does not disrupt the foxing. In addition, the texture of the ink on the letter “t” of the word “the” in “with the mouth” has not suffered a break or a separation. The folds themselves are not heavy; they are more curl-like than actual folds. This may explain the insignificant wears along the letter and the foxing. A framer used a “limited” sense in reframing it and used a frame that was available at the time. Had the framer been more careful, a frame of correct proportion would have been used instead of compromising by applying the folds. This all indicates that the real value of this image was unknown to the framer. Nevertheless, this framer was knowledgeable enough to preserve the inscriptions and used a border to improvise its aesthetics.

The eyelash is not a cutout; it is inked. It is more of a blob than a single stroke from a quill. It is placed too low and not lifelike. Someone other than Honeywell may have applied this.

There is no explanation as to why Honeywell inscribed her work in such an unusual downward curve. Was she following the bust curve? She initiated the inscription too high and realized that she would be too close to the bust tip on the right. As mentioned earlier, she had a tendency of writing in a slight upward curve. If she were to follow her usual manner, the inscription may have touched the bottom of the bust tip. She, too, was only human. Anyone can be careless at times.

There is no doubt that this cutting is by Honeywell. The penmanship is without a question hers. The profile has all the telltale signs of her work. The backing paper is original to the profile; it is contemporary and belongs to Honeywell. The ink streak seen on the left of the bust is another indicative attribute quite often seen with her work.

This is a rare profile with the name of a town. Moreover, distinct reverse curvature of the inscription makes it exceedingly rare. The profile is in want of a good contemporary rectangular frame.