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Verre Eglomise Silhouette

Polk, Charles Peale
Place Made:
Richmond Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
wood, glass, paint, gold leaf
DIA (frame) 4 5/8; (image) 3 3/8
Accession Number:
DESCRIPTION: verre-eglomise silhouette profile of a gentleman facing right; features of the subject are etched through the gold leaf and enhanced by hatching and cross hatching; molded interior of frame is gilded; exterior of frame is painted black.
LABEL NOTES: In the verre-eglomise process, gold leaf was adhered to glass with a water size and allowed to dry. The artist then used a sharp intrument to etch through the gold leaf to define the profile and features of the subject. The interior of the exposed back of the profile was then painted; when the paint was dry, the remaining gold leaf was gently washed away and the background was painted black.

Polk may have learned the verre-eglomise process while living in Baltimore as the process was used by some Baltimore cabinetmakers to enhance furniture. However, the only know advertisement for the profiles appeared in the RICHMOND ENQUIRER on June 3, 1806:

A New and Elegant Style of taking PROFILE LIKENESSES, Engraved in Gold [in italics], and framed for 3 dollars each. Specimens may be seen at the Eagle Tavern, by applying to C.P. POLK, who has just arrived in this city, and respectfully offers his professional services to the public.

The exact identity of the sitter for this profile has been lost, but he may have been a Virginian. According to Linda Crocker Simmons, the provenance of the painting links it with a Tennesee family with ancestral ties to Virginia.

Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund