Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Can you tell me anything about this print?...

As we state on our web site, we are always happy to answer questions so as to help spread knowledge about antique prints and maps. We answer every email we get as best we can within the specified parameters (for instance, that the query is polite and that it not include an unsolicited email attachment). One of the most common questions we get is to help provide information about a print where the owner cannot find out anything at all about it.

Here is a typical question I received this morning:

I came across a framed print which was turned upside down in a closet and used for a shelf. Since then, I have been trying to find out more information, or where I could find more information about the print.

There is a sticker on the back from Goupil's Gallery, 5th Avenue and Twenty Second Street, NY. The frame is painted wood throughout the front with a scalloped cutout in the center for the picture of a young girl. The edging of the scallop is painted gold.

I have tried to research the print, frame, Goupil's, etc., and always meet with a dead end. I even brought it to a local "Antiques Road Show" here in Columbia and the art dealer could not provide me with any information. I am looking for some direction as to my next step. Can you possibly provide that for me.

In a couple of ways this question is typical of the type of queries we get all the time (though unusual in that the framed print had been used as a closet shelf!). First, the only information on the item is the name of the gallery that framed or sold the print. Secondly, the owner has tried to research the print (usually on the internet) and found absolutely nothing.

The sad thing is that in most of these cases--including this one--there is nothing we can tell the owner. First off, the name of the framer or seller (in this case Goupil of New York) does not tell you much about the print. Most framers and art galleries handled all sorts of prints and the fact they framed or sold the one in question usually adds nothing to your knowledge about the print itself.

The real problem, though, is that it is just a fact of the print world that there isn't any information that is possible to find about an awful lot of antique prints. Sure, there are many prints where the publisher, artist, engraver, date, etc. is printed on the prints themselves, but at least as many prints have little or no information on them. Some may have a title, or perhaps a place of publication, but many have nothing at all.

For these prints, it is usually impossible to learn anything more than what you can see by looking at them. If I examine a print in person, I can usually tell the process by which it is made and often a general date (from the process, style and paper). Beyond that, though, there is often nothing more to be learned. From the middle of the nineteenth century through to the early twentieth century there were tens of thousands of prints made about which there is no information one can find today.

These prints were usually inexpensive prints produced for decoration, where the artist was unrecorded (or, even if identified, there may be nothing more known about the artist ) and where the publisher didn't bother to record its name nor the date of publication. These prints were simply intended to be framed and hung on the wall and the publishers didn't think it was worthwhile to document any of this information.

As discussed in the blog about decorative prints, there is nothing wrong with these "mere" decorative prints, but the nature of these prints means that there is likely never anything--other than process and a general date--to be learned about them. It is frustrating for us when people email us or bring this sort of print into the Antiques Roadshow, but it happens all the time. Our best advice is for the owners not to worry about this lack of documentation, but rather to simply enjoy these prints for what they were intended, as decorative prints to be framed, hung and enjoyed.

18 comments:

  1. Are there lists of artists that focused on one particular subject matter? I've had this etching of the Washington Monument in Baltimore for 40yrs and I've always wanted to know the name of the sketch artist. I can't quite make out the name on the piece, but I figured I could deduce the script if I read a list of probable artists.

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  2. There were a lot of prints made of the Washington Monument in Baltimore and I know of no listing of all of them. You can, however, consult two books that include a lot of prints of Baltimore. Lois McCauley' "Maryland Historical Prints 1752 to 1889" and Laura Rice's "Maryland History in Prints 1743-1900" A good library in Maryland should have both of these. Good luck.

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  3. I have a print (item no.2136 Candle Bell &Bible 16x20 R.N.no30581 made and printed in USA) and I was wondering if its worth anything and could you tell me something about it. harknesssheila@yahoo.com

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  4. Any time you see a number like this, you know that it is a commercial print made by a company with a large catalogue--those numbers are catalogue numbers and are the way a store would order the prints they wanted from the manufacturer. Also, anythime you see "Made in USA" you know it is a modern print as that is something used only in recent times. So, your print is modern, but unless there is any publisher name on it, there is no knowing what firm produced it.

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  5. I have a John Clymer original oil painting. I actually purchased this at a yard sale, it is framed and very pretty. It has a tear of about 1 to 2 inches and am wondering what the value of this painting is before and after it is repaired. Also, if you could direct me to someone who could restore this painting. thanks so much, Carol

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  6. We really do not deal at all with paintings. This print is about antique prints and maps.

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  7. So sorry just thought you might be able to point me in the right direction. Thanks so much for responding. I actually purchased my first old map the other day. It is a Geological and Artesian water map of Alabama by Eugene All Smith, not extremely old, a 1906 legend. I found it at a thrift store and had to have it. I am hopeing to add more to my poor single fella on the wall.
    Thanks again,
    Carol Harper

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  8. I have a Currier & Ives metal plate used to produce prints. It appears to be a Christmas scene. Can you tell me how to find out more about it?

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  9. I have a print 21 1/2 by 14 1/2, by Karl Witkowski called Little Sweethearts and it advertises for Fairy Soap. It's in pretty good shape. But I can't seem to find out much more on it. And what is it's worth ?

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    1. As I have said in a number of places in this blog, this is not the place to be giving values. However, I can tell you that this print has only what we call "decorative" value.

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  10. Hello, I have been doing some research and am at a dead end. I have some prints that are marked FA inc. I have come across another individual with the same inquiry. Do you know of a company that goes or went by that name? It would be much appreciated.

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  11. I have a Prang's American Chromos titled Dessert no. 2, dated 1871. on back is a list of all Prang's chromos with date Nov. 1st 1871 and the cost of each print. Can you tell me what it is worth?

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  12. Hi (image included photo attached) please help,appreciate ant information you may provide. Mt email is kbxii@yahoo.com my name's Katy, cleaned out attic & came across this and then noticed these words lightly written in the middle area - " copyright 1898 by the taber prang art co.

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  13. I have what I believe is a print. Bottom right hand corner says Taber Prang Art Co. Copyright 1902
    artist signed S.C. Constantin the frame has a plaque with "Music and Romance". I don't see where I could send you a picture. Can you tell me anything about it. It depicts a woman and 4 men playing instruments in what might be a gondola.

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    1. If you read the blog above, you will see that like many cases, there is really nothing to tell you about this print other than what you already know: the artist, title, publisher and date. For most prints, including yours, that is really all there is to say. Taber Prang was a company which issued prints for the home, to be framed and used as decoration. That is what your print was published for, and so what you already know about the print is really all there is to say.

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  14. HI, I have a 26 1/2" x 21 1/2" framed/matted version of Court Society at Versailles by Jean-Francois deTroy. I know that the colored version of the same picture is called The Declaration of Love and I see reproductions of that available online. Mine is an engraving by Oldermann. Under the image it says, "Engraved according to an Act of Congress by George Stinson & Co in the year 1890 in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington. Published by George Stinson & Co. Portland, Maine." I obviously know the name of the artwork and who it's by...but I can find very few examples of it online. This hung in my Grandmother's home as long as I can remember. She was not an art collector, so I assume this was something that was widely available (mass produced)? Do you know why different versions have different titles? Does it really date to 1890, or was this produced at a later date? Do you know where I could find out more about this particular piece? The paper on the back of the piece is torn badly. After reading your blog about the value of restoring items, I am planning to take it to my local framer and have the backing redone.
    Thank you for any help you can give me.
    Deb

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    1. A lot of questions! In all likelihood the print is from 1890, as this was not the sort of print which has been reproduced. This print was widely available at the time; it is a steel engraving and they ran off thousands (usually) of these when made. You will not find many on the internet because it is the type of print which does not sell very well unless seen in person. There were hundreds of thousands of prints made in the 19th century and not that many of them appear very often on the internet. I do not know how many versions there are of the image, as no one really tracked such information. Basically, the printmakers (George Stinson & Co in this case) would just take images which they could get hold of and copy them, usually putting titles which they thought would make it easier to sell, and then issue them in order to make money. This image could have been copied by dozens of publishers; I just don't know. I doubt very much you will be able to find out more about your print, as the Stinson company is not one which has been studied and written about, at least as far as I know. You can, of course, probably find out more about the original paintings, just not the print. Hope that answers your questions!

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    2. Thank you very much!

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