Phelps, W. J. (McKechnie Section 4)

See Section Seven for main entry

A few black silhouettes by Phelps, painted entirely in black on plaster, have been seen, but they are of indifferent quality compared with the work discussed in Section Seven. Phelps's black silhouettes on plaster date from 1786-88 (while he was working at the house of 'Mr Wilson' the watchmaker), from 1789 (Coke owned two silhouettes of boys, dated 1788 and 1789; the former bore Phelps's trade label), and (in the case of one illustrated example) from 1791. I have seen unsigned silhouettes which look much like the illustrated examples in style, and may be Phelps's work.

Phelps showed little detail on these silhouettes. The gathered buffon worn by women over the décolletage is sketchily shown, as are their ribbons. The treatment of hair varies; Phelps might render it as a pad in the manner of Mrs Mary Lightfoot (q.v.), but he could paint hanging curls as well as on his part-coloured work. Bust-line terminations are not uniform. Phelps used oval hammered brass frames, with flat glass.

Ills. 1392, 1393

1392
Unknown woman
Silhouette painted on plaster
July 1786 or July 1787
3 ½ x 2 ¾ in./90 x 70mm.
Trade label
Frame: oval, hammered brass

 

The sitter is wearing an unusual variant of the à la conceilleur hair-style, gathered and turned up for riding.

 

Crown Copyright. Victoria and Albert Museum

 

1393
Unknown woman
Silhouette painted on plaster
7 January 1791
3 ½ x 2 ¾ in./90 x 70mm.
Frame: oval, hammered brass

 

Inscribed on the reverse, ‘By W. Phelps, Jan 7, 1791.’

 

By courtesy of Sotheby Parke Bernet and Company, London