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Beetham, Isabella, Mrs (McKechnie Section 5)

See Section Three for main entry

Mrs Beetham's work on ivory is very much like that of her work on paper and glass. Ivory examples exist in many sizes. One (illustrated), although now framed as a brooch, is of a size for a ring, and was probably intended for one; it is framed beneath concave glass which would fit over a finger.


It will be seen from the illustrations that the artist's usual double-loop concavity bust-line appears on her ivory work, with the variations seen on her work on other surfaces. When drawing light-coloured ribbons, Mrs Beetham followed her usual practice of rendering these 'hollow', and carefully shaded; many silhouette artists did not take such pains. Dark-coloured ribbons are painted, as usual, in solid black. Of the illustrated ivory pieces, two have decorated designs about the oval. Another, in a pearwood frame, is of cabinet size.

Mrs Beetham's ivory pieces are rarely signed, but their provenance can be deduced with reasonable certainty from a comparison with work on other surfaces. One of her trade labels

(No. 7; not seen by me) was apparently used for such jewellery pieces as pocket cases. It bears the address 27 Fleet Street.

Ills. 1455-1458

Unknown woman
Silhouette painted on ivory in shades of black
Late 1780s
2½ x 2in./64 x 51mm.
Frame : oval, pearwood


The double concavity of the bust-line has been adapted by the artist to conform with the shape of the frame.


From Weymer Mills, ‘One Hundred Silhouettes in the Wellesley Collection’ (1912), by courtesy of the Oxford University Press


Gold locket, containing a silhouette of an unknown woman painted on ivory by Mrs Isabella, c. 1790. Size : 1¼ x 1in.. 32 x 26mm.


J. A. Pollak collection


Gold locket, containing a silhouette of an unknown girl painted on ivory by Mrs Isabella, c. 1795. Size : 2 5/8 x 2 3/8 in./67 x 61mm. Backed with two locks of hair, one fair, one dark.


M. A. H. Christie collection


Brooch, containing a silhouette of an unknown woman painted on ivory by Mrs Isabella Beetham. The small size (1 x 5/8in./26 x 16mm.), and the concave glass, which would fit over a finger, suggest that this silhouette was originally painted for setting in a ring.


Crown Copyright. Victoria and Albert Museum