Saturday, 12 October 2019

cameo appearance

Among several other etymological origin stories along the lines of the painting of a landscape preceded its coinage as something to gaze upon or wander through, we learn of the unexpected legacy of the namesake Comptroller-General of Finances, Étienne de Silhouette.
Charged with bolstering the treasury in preparation for the Seven Years’ War with England, Silhouette took the unpopular emergency measure of melting down flatware and jewelry for bullion and levied a “general subvention,”—that is a tax on ostentatious displays of wealth, such as family paintings.  Anything that suggested imposed austerity or frugality was deemed à la Silhouette—including those modest profile portraits that later gained respect as an art form in late eighteenth century.