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Butterworth, John (McKechnie Section 3)

See Section Two for main entry

I have mentioned in Section Two that Butterworth's work as a painter of silhouettes appears to have been secondary to his work as an engraver. That he painted a few profiles on the under surface of flat glass is, however, evident from the illustrated example (c. 1795), which is backed with his trade label.

It is clear that he also etched on glass, for an oblong piece of this type, worked in gold and sepia, representing a fruit fair and showing a composition of numerous figures, was sold by Sotheby and Company, London, on 26 March 1962. This was as wide as 15¼ in., but only 4 in. high, and was framed in giltwood. It was signed

'J. Butterworth'. Although silhouettes on glass by Butterworth are rare, one might expect varied examples of his work on glass (in a more general sense) to come to light.

The illustrated silhouette is surrounded by a black painted oval, inside which is a second oval of black dots. This type of decoration is seen on some of the work of W. J. Jolliffe, to which Butterworth's profile is also similar in the extensive use of the needle against dead-black pigment to show detail. The frills on the hat and dress have been scratched in fine hatching, but the bows on the cap are more roughly painted.

Jackson (Dictionary) illustrates another portrait by this artist, also apparently painted on glass, of one Samuel Gatliff; it was taken in May 1790. This shows the singular 'nick' at the base often used by Butterworth to show the termination of the arm. (The illustrated example shows two nicks). Gatliff wears a double-breasted frock of the type often seen during the 1790s. The large buttons on this are not indicated merely by scratched lines, but by two discs (formed by completely scraping away the pigment) and a small crescent of thinned pigment added near the top of each disc to indicate its shape.

Ill. 1030

Unknown woman
Silhouette painted on flat glass, backed with plaster
c. 1795
3 x 2½in./77 x 64mm.
Trade Label
Frame: pearwood


M. A. H. Christie collection