Martha Ann Honeywell


(1787–after 1847),
a native of Lempster, New Hampshire, was known for her profile silhouettes, needlework, penmanship, and paper cutouts. While her silhouettes are not remarkable inthemselves, all her artwork is remarkable because of her physical limitations. Honeywell was born without hands or forearms, and one foot had only three toes; shecreated art using her mouth and toes. A description of her working process cited by Alice Carrick was drawn from an eyewitness account by a diarist, William Bentley,on January 27, 1809. Bentley wrote that he had seen evidence of Miss Honeywell’s talents. During a single “performance,” she threaded a needle and embroideredusing her toes and mouth, made fancy paper cutouts by balancing a pair of scissors with her mouth and arm stump, and wrote a letter with her toes.As noted above, Honeywell executed and sold silhouettes. Another of her specialties was a cutout with a handwritten version of “The Lord’s Prayer” on a dime-sizecentral panel. She also made and sold flowers and landscapes. Honeywell signed her silhouettes “Cut by M Honeywell with the mouth” or “Cut without hands byM.A.Honeywell”; one of her profiles bears the signature “Cut with the lips.” She also signed her other cut paper works.Many of Honeywell’s public appearances in the United States are documented in newspaper advertisements and broadsides. She would perform three times a day,with each performance lasting two hours; tickets cost fifty cents. She appeared in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1806 and 1809; in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1808 andagain in 1834–1835; and in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1839. In the
Columbian Centinel
of June 21, 1806, her performance was described in order to attract interestamong Bostonians. A broadside some years later mentioned her well-received European presentations and advertised a profile likeness cut in a few seconds for twenty-five cents—half price for children.There are examples of Honeywell’s profiles in the collections of the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center in Williamsburg, Virginia; and in the Essex Institute inSalem, Massachusetts.
Blumenthal, M.L. “Martha Ann Honeywell Cut-Outs.”
The Magazine Antiques
(May 1931): 379Carrick, Alice Van Leer.
Shades of Our Ancestors.
Boston, 1938.Groce, George C., and David H.Wallace.
The New-York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America 1564–1860.
New Haven, Conn., and London, 1957.Rifken, Blume J.
Silhouettes in America, 1790–1840: A Collectors’ Guide.
Burlington, Vt., 1987.Rumford, Beatrix, ed.
American Folk Portraits, Paintings, and Drawings from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center.
Boston, 1981