noun \ˌsi-lə-ˈwet\

: a dark shape in front of a light background

: a picture of something showing it as a dark shape on a light background; especially : such a picture showing a person's face from the side

: the shape or outline of something

Full Definition of SILHOUETTE

:  a likeness cut from dark material and mounted on a light ground or one sketched in outline and solidly colored in
:  the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass <the silhouette of a bird>

Examples of SILHOUETTE

  1. the silhouettes of buildings against the sky
  2. The buildings appeared in silhouette against the sky.
  3. My piano teacher has a framed silhouette of Mozart on her wall.
  4. a portrait of my mother done in silhouette
  5. He admired the sports car's sleek silhouette.


French, from Étienne de Silhouette †1767 French controller general of finances; perhaps from his ephemeral tenure
First Known Use: 1783


Other Fine Arts Terms

Gothic, baroque, bas-relief, limn, oeuvre, pastiche, rococo, sfumato


transitive verb

: to make (someone or something) appear as a dark shape in front of a light background


Full Definition of SILHOUETTE

:  to represent by a silhouette; also :  to project on a background like a silhouette
sil·hou·et·tist \-ˈwe-tist\ noun

Examples of SILHOUETTE

  1. <in the photograph the majestic mountain is strikingly silhouetted against the setting sun>

First Known Use of SILHOUETTE


Other Fine Arts Terms

Gothic, baroque, bas-relief, limn, oeuvre, pastiche, rococo, sfumato


noun    (Concise Encyclopedia)

Silhouette portrait by Charles Willson Peale; in the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.—Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Outline image or design in a single solid, flat colour, giving the appearance of a shadow cast by a solid figure. The term is usually applied to profile portraits in black against white (or vice versa), either painted or cut from paper, especially popular c. 1750–1850 as the least expensive method of portraiture. The name derives from Étienne de Silhouette, Louis XV's finance minister, notorious for his frugality and his hobby of making cut-paper shadow portraits. In 17th-century Europe, shadow portraits and scenes were produced by drawing the outline cast by candlelight or lamplight; when paper became widely available, they were often cut out freehand directly from life. Photography rendered silhouettes nearly obsolete, and they became a type of folk art practiced by itinerant artists and caricaturists.


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