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Pearce, Benjamin, the Elder (McKechnie Section 1)

Recorded by Jackson (Dictionary) and Woodiwiss (British Silhouettes). Pearce is chiefly known for a number of black cuttings which were included in Queen Victoria’s album containing a collection of such pieces. Jackson illustrates a black bust-length profile of Lady Flora Hastings, Lady of the Bedchamber to Queen Victoria, from this album, and I have illustrated another, representing the Queen's mother, the Duchess of Kent; this was inscribed ‘Mamma’ by Queen Victoria. The latter profile is one of many made for the Queen by Pearce, who may have taken it in the late 1820s. Queen Victoria’s album was dated 1834. Pearce also took a silhouette of the Queen herself shortly after her accession; this is one of his best works.

We know little of where Pearce was living when he made these cuttings for the Queen. An address in St Leonards is shown on the back of the profiles of Queen Victoria and the Duchess. Pearce also took a silhouette of Lord Salisbury (the Prime Minister), presumably in England, but is also known to have taken a silhouette of Napoleon III at the Hotel des Invalides, Paris. Pearce, therefore, evidently travelled during his career.

Pearce appears to have worked only as a cutter in black paper, producing not only bust-length portraits but silhouettes of dogs and horses. Any bronzed work, signed 'Pearce', is likely to be by the artist's son, Benjamin Pearce the younger (q.v.), who is said to have produced embellished copies of some of his father's work. Pearce signed his silhouettes, inscribing the address on the reverse.

Ills. 546, 547

546 Benjamin Pearce the elder
The Duchess of Kent, mother of Queen Victoria
Cut silhouette
? Late 1820s


4½ x 3½in. / 115 x 90mm.


Signed by the artist, with his address (in St. Leonards, Sussex) on the reverse. From an album of cuttings, dated 1834, formerly owned by Queen Victoria.


By gracious permission of Her Majesty the Queen


547 Benjamin Pearce the elder
Queen Victoria
Cut silhouette


Signed by the artist. The surround is an embossed card produced by Dobbs, the Royal Stationer, and bears the Royal coat-of-arms and the coat-of-arms of the city of London.


From the collection of the late J. C. Woodiwiss