The silhouette portrait became popular in the mid-1700's in France, through the artistic talents of its namesake, French bureaucrat Etienne de Silhouette.
A precursor to the modern-day photograph, the silhouette was a favorite way for all classes of society, from royalty to common folk, to capture the likeness of family members and loved ones for posterity. Silhouette portraits were an inexpensive alternative to the more extravagant commissioned oil portraits. To this day, silhouette portraits are still referred to as the "poor man's portrait."
Professional silhouette artists create their portraits the authentic way by using scissors and black paper. The subject sits and poses for a matter of minutes while the artist cuts out the subject's profile freehand with a pair of scissors.