Thursday, July 2, 2009

Value of religious prints

One of the most common types of prints we see at Antiques Roadshow and about which we get enquiries are religious themed prints. Be it an engraving of the Last Supper, a popular lithograph of Jesus, or a chromolithograph of the Holy Family, we see and get questions about religious prints all the time. This is not surprising, for as the Bible is the most common book, so religious prints are the most common type of print made and have been since the beginning of print making.

This should come as no surprise. There is a huge demand for religious prints. It has always been part of the Catholic Church that religious iconography has been an important part of life, but religious images are also important for members of most Christian denominations. Today, religious art plays a much smaller role in our lives than it used to; in the past, most homes in this country which had any art, would have had at least one religious painting or print. So it is not surprising that the number of religious prints made over the centuries is huge.

One of the results of this is that religious prints tend to have low values. Almost always, a religious print will have a lower value than a comparable print (say from the same date and by the same publisher) with another subject. The ubiquitous nature of religious prints means that they are relatively common and this keeps their value down. The same thing applies to Bibles, where the very large number in existence means that most Bibles sell for relatively low prices. It is hard for a seller to price a religious print very high when a buyer can probably find a dozen comparable ones that will be priced lower.

There are a couple of other reasons that religious prints tend not to sell for high prices. First is that much of the demand for religious prints has been a “mass market” demand for utilitarian images, not an elite demand for elaborately-done prints. That is, most people want a religious print in order to have a particular image to hang in their home or work place, not because they are looking for collectible and valuable print. Most of the religious prints that have been made were made in large numbers by relatively inexpensive processes: hand-colored lithographs in the mid-nineteenth century or chromolithographs later in the century or dot-matrix reproductive prints in the early twentieth century. This sort of print on any topic will tend not to have a high value, so this is another reason religious prints are generally low priced.

The final factor that keeps the value of religious prints low is that this theme is not currently one that a lot of people use to decorative their home or office. As noted above, in earlier times religious prints would have been the most typical type of image one would see hanging in homes and elsewhere. Today, it is much more the exception than the rule that religious prints are used in such situations.


So to sum up, the quality of most religious prints is “mass market,” the supply is huge, and the demand relatively low, and the result is that most religious prints tend to have low values.

It is important to make two caveats to these remarks. First is the obvious point that while the majority of religious prints are inexpensive, there are some very fine, expensive religious prints. An Old Master engraving of Madonna and Child or an exquisite eighteenth century mezzotint of Christ on the Cross certainly have significant value. The second point is that the low price of most religious prints does not mean in any sense that these prints are without inherent value. As I discussed with decorative prints, many prints are wonderful historic artifacts, decorative and meaningful images, even if they do not sell for much on the market. The three factors I discussed above mean that most religious prints have low prices; they do not mean that these are not prints worth having and appreciating for their inherent meaning and history.

23 comments:

  1. Hi... Thanks for sharing information with us..nice blog..
    Cheer


    ___________________
    Jessica
    Get 28 movie channels for 3 months free

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Nice blog.

    I'm from Temple, tx. I've got eight old lithagraphs from the Providence Lithograph Co. 1898 printed in 1911. They are of bible stories. Do any of you know what they're worth and what one can do with them?...
    Pastorhood@creekfamily.org

    ReplyDelete
  3. Like all religious prints, they will have only "decorative" value (this is explained in the blog above). They are quite late in terms of what people usually look for, but if they are decorative they will have some value.

    Not sure what you mean by "what one can do with them." You can do the same thing with them as with any other old print. You can frame them and hang them on your walls or you can just keep them around to look at. You can also try to sell them, privately or at auction, but again as discussed above, religious prints are not easy to sell.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have the last supper at the very top of the page. Is it's value low? Is that why you picked it?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I picked it because it is an example of a nice religious print that does not have a lot of value.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I have a original print of Pope Benedict XV # 665 By Muller Luchsinger & Co, NEW YORK Copywrighted 1914 does it have any value?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have a wood cut print named Remember Harry. The day the music died I think the musician was Harry Chapin in 1981 this was done in memory of him. There were only 75 and I have #10 and it is signed by artist, Is there any value to this?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have a framed picture of the last supper in the above print. There is no value at all? It appears to be very old, my grandmother gave it to me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Basically, all last supper prints, not matter how old, have only decorative value. Being old doesn't give a print value; it is much more its subject matter.

      Delete
  9. can anybody help me with this unique print, I can't find anything about it, I think I know the meaning, However it is black and white, paper is getting sensative to touch, down left corner says 76 Sagrada Familia, Svjeta Rodzina, Heil Family, Gr III No 376. On the picture is shown, Holy God the Father, under neath Him, dove Holy Spirit, beneath, Heil Mary and Joseph, and between them Jesus when He was 13 presented to wise men. I think

    ReplyDelete
  10. I have a print of The Madonna and Child (Geek Madonna)by Giovanni Bellini which is enclosed in a very ornately carved/embossed frame (I believe that the carvings/embossing are of plaster).Size frame:- 3ft 8" high x 3ft wide. The picture/print is 2ft 7" High x 2ft wide. As you can see the frame is very substantial.
    As I wish to sell this framed picture; how can I realistically price it without either under/over selling?
    Any information that you forward would be greatly appreciated.
    Regards.

    ReplyDelete
  11. I have a large print of the Raphael Madonna and child that is in the Sistine Chapel (only the mother and child - you can see a small bit of the draped fabric to the right) that is 30x35 and in a very elaborate frame with a backing board that has a sticker saying it was patented in 1883 by Deuther Mfg Buffalo
    Could the print be that old?


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There is no reason to think that your print isn't that old. In the late 19th and early 20th century there were thousands and thousands of prints like this made, as they were quite popular for people to hang in their homes. Though without seeing it I cannot say for sure, I would think your print is at least that old.

      Delete
  12. I just purchase a print The gospel according to Saint John. The picture is of Christ and says, Christ the mediator at the very bottom outside of the border. Upon looking closer at the background, for which I thought was just some sort of patter, I realize that it is the entire gospel of St. John in very small print. It is entirely in black and white and really is amazing. I would like to find out where it originated as there are no markings. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  13. As he stated in his blogs that he charges for his services so if you need evaluate any prints . Then you must contact him and have it appraisal without getting freebies. Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well, I have a different opinion when it comes to Religious prints. There is a value of every religious prints as far as they are beyond 1923 and not under copyright law protection. Some of religious prints can fall in a multiple categories such as costume, cross, Jesus and etc. etc.

    If you are inclined to know the value of your print. Do so research web is full of information I am sure you will find the appropriate value of your prints.

    Nowadays, you do not need professional help web is full of resources. Why spend 100 plus dollars to have your print appraised when you can invest some time in researching. It is just my opinion everyone is different minded and they are entitle to their own approach.

    Thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have a large print and when I removed it the frame the glass had ink shadows on it. Does that mean that it was hand colored? Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not necessarily. Printed ink can also affect glass the same way.

      Delete
    2. Thank you. The print is a Munkacsy, size is 34 x 22. That is rare I would think. I don't know why I bought it, I'm more of a still life girl and this one is moving all over. Don't care, I still like it. Thanks again.

      Delete
  16. regarding the last supper. Can you tell me why there are different variations of color in the clothing worn by the people (apostles) and the Mary's have different hairstyles, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Different firms, including Currier & Ives, issued many versions of the Last Supper. The artist would just draw it differently and as every print was hand colored, there was often variation in color. There was no "right" way to draw the image so lots of variations.

      Delete
  17. Thank you for the information. I thought it was interesting when I saw a couple of different prints where Mary or John looks like she/he's Greek. They wear a pink/scarlet robe and have short curly hair. Best regards.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have an old print, that I would like to identify. The signature has me puzzled. If you would like to help me would you give me your email address in full because I when I clicked on your email button in your profile it would not enter your name in our email. please spell it out for us or email my friend (who is interested very much more than me) rachelear@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete