WILLIAM JAMES HUBAND 1807-1862
An Exceptionally Fine Pair of Georgian Male Silhouettes (black ink on card) enclosed within their original figured Rosewood Frames, by Anglo American Silhouettist William James Huband 1801-1862.
The Gentleman facing right in formal attire and wearing a top hat. The younger Gentleman facing left with a headband and high collar.
Condition: Professionally restored frames, light staining on ground of one silhouette. Paper label on one as shown.
Height: (entire) 7.25” (18cm). Width: (entire) 5.5” (14cm)
William James Hubard came to the United States in 1824, after having enjoyed a distinguished career as a silhouettist in England, Ireland and Scotland. In England, he was permitted to cut the likeness of the "Little Princess Victorine," later to be her majesty, Queen Victoria. In Ireland, so great was the reputation that he had accrued, he was advertised as the "celebrated Master Hubard." In Scotland, he was presented with a silver palette by "admirers of his genius."
All of this recognition and success is the more remarkable when it is known that the recipient of such honors was but 17 years old when he left Great Britain and landed in New York to begin his American career.
Born in Warwick, England, in 1807. His early years are still somewhat of a mystery, but it is said that his talent was made manifest early in his life, when his parents, investigating his unusual attentiveness in church, discovered that what seemed to be piety was merely keen observation of the face of the rector for the purpose of cutting his likeness.
This talent was soon discovered by some one else, some one who turned it to advantage for himself. This was a person named Smith, a man about whom little is known with certainty except that he had an unusual flair for writing advertising copy. It was he who conducted young Hubard's tours through the British Isles, and it was he who brought him to America. Samples of his salesmanship include such gems as this, quoted from the Columbian Sentinal of Boston, November 16, 1825:
"The Papyrotomia, or Hubard Gallery, is a splendid collection of cuttings in paper, the productions of Master Hubard, a boy who possesses the peculiar faculty of delineating every object in nature and art simply with a pair of common scissors."
Hubard and Smith Part Company
In Boston, also, Smith published a memoir of Master Hubard with a complete list of the cuttings displayed in the Papyrotomia. This collection includes such interesting items as: "The Epsom Races, with upwards of 200 figures of equestrian and pedestrian groups, including a carriage and four, a mendicant on crutches, an open landau at speed, and a swell, riding at ease."
Boston was the last place visited by Hubard in his capacity of cutter of shades. Eighteen was rather a great age for an "infant prodigy;" perhaps the young man was irked by having to dress and behave as a person of lesser years to make his skill seem the more remarkable; and perhaps Smith had discovered a younger and more docile prodigy. A combination of causes is conceivable, but the latter is certainly true, for the Charleston Courier of January 10, 1828, tells us that the Papyrotomia with "cuttings" by Hubard and Hankes is being shown, but profiles are being taken by Hankes, and not by Hubard. So, deserted by the man who had exploited him, abandoned in a strange land, young Hubard probably resolved to cut no more silhouettes in America, even to speak no more of silhouettes.
Hubard did not, however, as prodigies are apt to do, resign himself to oblivion. His promotor and taskmaster gone, he turned to another and more congenial art. Perhaps the silver palette presented to him by "his admirers in the city of Glasgow" spurred him on. Certainly a palette isn't a very useful implement to a cutter of silhouettes. To put it to use and fulfill the hopes of his friends and well-wishers young Hubard took to painting.
In Boston he found congenial friends. He is said to have worked for a short while in the studio of Gilbert Stuart, and to have had the advice of Thomas Sully. Perhaps it was at Sully's suggestion that Hubard went to France with two young men for travel and study. We are indebted to one of them, Cameron, for a glimpse of this journey. They traveled, he said, as vagabonds; whenever they ran short of money, Hubard would interest the women and girls of the country inns, with his remarkable ability to produce their likenesses with scissors and bits of paper. Thus he would win for them a meal and a night's lodging. But such idle adventuring was not to be the aim of Hubard's existence. He returned to the United States and resumed his career as a painter.This fine pair of Silhouettes in their original frames are a very rare find been offered for sale.
Final image shows a self Portrait a crayon drawing, now housed in the Valentine Museum in Richmond Virginia USA.