About this artwork

There is something very sinister about this silhouette of Dr Knox, who seems to be engaged in a heated discussion with a skull. Knox was the leading teacher of anatomy in Edinburgh in the 1820s. His reputation suffered a major blow when he was implicated in one of the most notorious murders in Scottish history, carried out by the Irish immigrants Burke and Hare. They had sold the bodies of their victims to Knox for dissection. Knox was not prosecuted, but left Edinburgh under public pressure and died in London where he is buried in an unmarked grave.

Augustin Edouart

Augustin Edouart

The Frenchman Augustin Edouart was the most prolific silhouette artist of his day. Born in Dunkirk, he served in the Napoleonic Wars and came to England in 1814. Edouart travelled around the country extensively, cutting the silhouettes of nearly every man and woman who had even the slightest claim to fame. In 1830 and 31 he was in Scotland, working in Edinburgh and in Glasgow. His silhouette portraits were cut from black paper and are mostly full-length profiles, around 18 centimetres high.