Prosopographus is the name of a mechanical attraction used by various artists to ‘draw’ silhouettes. In classic eccentric Victorian style it was designed to resemble a man in beautiful clothing, an ‘automated artist’. The actual artist would look through the eyes of the figure, operating its right hand to draw the profile outline. This outline could then be painted by hand to the sitter’s wishes,
It has recently been discovered that Prosopographus was used for approximately 12 years in a travelling gallery managed by the profilist Charles Hervé II. The Gallery opened in London, and travelled to Liverpool (1821), Newcastle (1826), Huddersfield (1827), Bath and Bristol (1829) and Cheltenham (1830). In advertisements the gallery claimed to have produced thousands of silhouettes using Prosopographus. Unfortunately, very few silhouettes are known today. These silhouettes do bear one of four known trade labels for Prosopographus.
Prosopographus was used to obtain a fine outline of the sitter in one single line. This would then be filled in plain black by an assistant of Hervé, or painted with detailed embellishments by Charles Hervé II himself. Hervé II was known to be a fine copyist, so profiles completed with the aid of Prosopographus have been discovered in various styles.
Source: McKechnie (Author of, British Silhouette Artists and their Work 1760-1860)Prosopographus (McKechnie Section 1)
Source: Joll (Hon. Secretary of the Silhouette Collectors Club and Editor of the Club's newsletter)Prosopographus (SCC Newsletter September 2010)