A Perfect Profile: Miniature Portraits, Silhouettes, and Landscapes of Early Annapolis

2019 Exhibition

Today the word profile has become synonymous with social media, yet the concept developed in America much earlier. The artist Charles Willson Peale wrote in 1803 that “profiles are seen in nearly every house in the United States of America.” Profiles, another name for silhouettes, were incredibly inexpensive and popular. In the years leading up to and after the American Revolution, citizens of this new nation redefined their culture, fashion, and character. People wanted to identify themselves through portraiture but expensive oil paintings were out of reach for most families. Instead people turned to miniature portraits and silhouettes. Easily transported and affordable, these pieces were shared with loved ones at special occasions. Landscapes gained popularity in the 19th century and adorned the homes of Americans, serving as conversation pieces, similar to the way photographs are used on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram today.

The exhibition highlights pieces with Annapolis provenance never before seen together. The collection of the Hammond-Harwood House Museum will be featured along with loans from the Maryland State Archives, Naval Academy Art Museum, and the Maryland Historical Society.

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