Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), an author and politician, became French controller general of finances in the mid-eighteenth century through the influence of Madame de Pompadour. Silhouette instituted strict reforms to help the failing economy. Everyone seemed delighted with his program, especially when he negotiated a large loan to adjust France's fiscal position. At last someone was seizing control and turning the financial structure of France around.
   The people's enthusiasm turned when Silhouette ended the public funding of the king's gambling losses, proposed a land tax on the estate of the nobles and the church, and ordered a cut in state pensions. Tax collectors could no longer retain for themselves a portion of their collections, and everyone, including nobility, became liable to taxation. And then he proposed to tax bachelors and luxury items. He also ordered the elimination of trouser cuffs, which created the phrase culottes de Silhouette. This minister of finance was clearly out of sync with the ruling hierarchy. An uproar erupted that could be heard from palace to palace.
   The king quickly put a stop to Silhouette's program, but the crafty finance minister then imposed a tax on "all articles of consumption." The euphoria that Silhouette had stirred in the populace a little while before was replaced with alarm. He became so exceedingly unpopular that he was forced to resign after having served for only eight months.
   Etymologists believe that Silhouette's tight-fisted, cost-cutting economic policies reminded people of shadow cut-outs, the cheapest form of art (in an art-conscious country), which they identified with his niggardliness. These profile cut-outs were long popular because they were much less expensive than a miniature painted by hand. All one needed to make them was a pair of scissors and some paper to fold. Many artists had made these black outlines on light paper, serving as modern snapshots would after the invention of photography. Some said that Silhouette made shadow portraits as a hobby and that his chateau at Bry-sur-Marne was decorated with them.

Dictionary of eponyms. . 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • silhouette — [ silwɛt ] n. f. • 1788; à la silhouette 1759; de Silhouette, ministre des Finances en 1759 1 ♦ Vx Portrait de profil exécuté en suivant l ombre projetée par un visage. ♢ Ombre projetée dessinant nettement un contour. 2 ♦ Forme qui se profile en… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Silhouette — (frz. „Umriss“) bezeichnet: Umriss, im Allgemeinen die Kontur eines Körpers Schattenriss, in der bildenden Kunst eine (vor allem figürliche) Umrisszeichnung Skyline, die Höhengestalt einer Stadt in der Mode die durch Kleidung geformte Körperlinie …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Silhouette — es un término francés que significa «silueta» y que puede referirse a: Silhouette: una isla situada en el archipiélago de las Seychelles; Silhouette: un personaje ficticio de historieta; Silhouette: un sistema genérico de juego de rol; Silhouette …   Wikipedia Español

  • Silhouette — Sf Umriß erw. fach. (18. Jh.) Onomastische Bildung. Entlehnt aus frz. silhouette Schattenriß , zu Etienne de Silhouette, einem französischen Generalkontrolleur und Minister. (Scherzhaft) so benannt als kostengünstige Variante von gemalten… …   Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen sprache

  • silhouette — (n.) 1798, from Fr. silhouette, in reference to Étienne de Silhouette (1709 1767), French minister of finance in 1759. Usually said to be so called because it was an inexpensive way of making a likeness of someone, a derisive reference to… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Silhouette — Ne nous fions pas aux apparences, le nom commun silhouette remonte au XVIIIe siècle, et fait référence à Etienne de Silhouette, homme politique de cette époque (soit lui même dessinateur de silhouettes, soit victime de caricatures). Quant au… …   Noms de famille

  • Silhouette — Sil hou*ette , v. t. To represent by a silhouette; to project upon a background, so as to be like a silhouette. [Recent] [1913 Webster] A flock of roasting vultures silhouetted on the sky. The Century. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Silhouette — Silhouette: Die Bezeichnung für »Umriss‹linie›, Kontur«, in der bildenden Kunst für »Schattenriss, Scherenschnitt« ist aus gleichbed. frz. silhouette entlehnt. Das frz. Wort geht zurück auf den Namen des französischen Politikers Etienne de… …   Das Herkunftswörterbuch

  • silhouette — ► NOUN 1) the dark shape and outline of someone or something visible in restricted light against a brighter background. 2) a representation of someone or something showing the shape and outline only. ► VERB ▪ cast or show as a silhouette. ORIGIN… …   English terms dictionary

  • silhouette — [sil΄ə wet′] n. [Fr, after Étienne de Silhouette (1709 67), Fr minister of finance, in derogatory reference to his fiscal policies and to such amateur portraits by him, both regarded as inept] 1. a) an outline, esp. a profile portrait, made… …   English World dictionary

  • Silhouette — Silhouette, das Schattenbild eines Menschen, das entsteht, wenn dessen Umriß mit schwarzer Farbe ausgefüllt ist, in welche die innern Linien zuweilen mit weißen Strichen leicht hineingezeichnet werden. Der Name rührt von dem französischen… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

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