Thursday, June 23, 2011

Multi-view prints

In previous blogs I have discussed my interest in what I call “novelty prints”, and mentioned the amazing collection of Richard Balzer. Many prints fall into this novelty category because there are multiple ways of looking at them. Today I will discuss prints which are structured in a three-dimensional manner so that they look different depending on the angle at which you view them.

We recently acquired a very interesting example of this sort of print, which you might call a “two-way” or “accordion” print (I have never come across one of these before, so do not know if there is a proper name for this sort of print). This print was issued in Paris sometime in the nineteenth century and it is a hand colored lithograph, but of definitely unusual form.

This print has the shape of an accordion, so that if you angle it to the left, you see an image of a flower vase, and if you angle it to the right, you see portraits of the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. It is a little hard to tell how it was put together and I have not wanted to take it out of the frame, as it appears quite fragile, but as best I can tell this print was created by taking three prints (the vase, and then the two portraits), cutting them into strips, then pasting them on a backing sheet folded into the accordion shape.

A similar type of print appeared in the nineteenth century in America, but these add a third view, so that you see one image if the print is angled left, one image if angled right, and one image if viewed straight on. Richard Balzer calls these prints “triceniums.” These are made using three prints, two of which are cut into strips and glued back to back. These double-sided strips are then stretched on their sides, and spaced a couple inches apart above the third print. If you look at the print straight on, the strips do not block your view of the print at the back, but when viewed at an angle you see one of the other two prints.

All the triceniums that I have seen use Currier & Ives portraits related to the Civil War. They have had either George Washington or Abraham Lincoln as the print when seen straight on, and various generals (such as Grant, McClellan, Scott and Sherman) used as the two angled prints. Years ago one of these, with Lincoln used as the print at the back, hung in the Ford Theater in Washington, but I am not sure it is still there.

I have also seen a “southern” version with Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (which I did an on-air appraisal of in an early Antiques Roadshow show), and I have been told by a fellow print dealer that he has seen a Currier & Ives tricenium with flower images.

All the ones I know of, at least those produced in America, use Currier & Ives prints. So were these published in this form by Currier & Ives? I have looked for years for any sort of advertisement or mention of this sort of print as being published by Currier & Ives themselves, but have never found any. Currier & Ives prints were ubiquitous around the time of the Civil War, and the firm did sell their prints to print sellers, bookshops, and framers around the country, so it is certainly a reasonable possibility that these prints were put together by a reseller and not Currier & Ives themselves.

Until someone finds a reference to these prints being sold or produced in the nineteenth century, the question of who put these together will be something we cannot answer. If anyone knows of any such reference or comes across one, I’d love to hear about it! I would also be keen to hear of any other examples of these multi-view prints, either using Currier & Ives prints or those by other publishers. These are a lot of fun and very little research has been done on them, something it would be nice to rectify.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Antiques Roadshow: Eugene

I have been remiss about getting new blog postings up, mostly because I have been doing a lot of travel of late. One of my trips was to the Antiques Roadshow taping done in Eugene, Oregon earlier this month. This was the first stop for the 2012 season (the new season begins in January and it shows the episodes filmed the summer before). It was great to see all my fellow appraisers and the crowd in Eugene was terrific. The Roadshow is still very popular (viewer numbers are continuing to go up) and the crowd in Eugene was as good as almost any city I’ve been to in the 15 years of doing the show. Everyone was very nice and I saw some great stuff.

One of the surprises was that there were not as many out-right reproductions brought to the prints and posters table as usual; there were some, but I would guess at least half of what we see in most cities are reproductions and there were considerably less in Eugene. There were also less of the tourist prints we usually see so many of (as I wrote about in a previous blog). I had hoped to see some good Oregon views, but nothing of any note in that line came in.

What came in with somewhat surprising regularity were really good maps. I am not sure why that is other than that I think the map appraisals that are shown on the Roadshow are of considerable interest to people, spiking interest in maps in general (at least I hope so!). It also might be that maps remain a bit of a mystery to many people. Most prints are fairly obvious in terms of what they are about (a local view, a portrait of a famous person, a bird print, etc.), but unless you are someone who is pretty up on history or cartography, most people know nothing about the maps they have other than the geographic area they show.

Whatever the case, I enjoy it when maps come in; most have an interesting history and I love to explain the historic context of the maps for their owners. Maps also can be quite attractive, as was the Blaeu world map that I saw. This was a map which a young lady had inherited from her father. She thought it was nice, but really didn’t know anything about it. This was a beautiful example of a Blaeu world, with original color, and when she learned both how early it was (early 17th century) and its value (over $20,000), she was flabbergasted. Fun to be able to pass on such good news rather than the usual, “Your print is very attractive, but its value is really simply as a decorative item and it would probably be priced at less than $10 in a shop…”

I also saw a number of other very good maps (one of which was taped and I hope will appear in next year’s season). One was a nice “saddle bag” version of Simeon De Witt’s important 1804 map of New York State. De Witt had been the Surveyor General for the American army during the Revolution and he later became the Surveyor General for New York State, a post he held for half a century. In 1802, De Witt produced a large map of the state, based on earlier maps along with new surveys commissioned by De Witt. Two years later, this seminal map was issued in the reduced version, a nice example of which was brought in to the Roadshow. A rare map that is one of the best American maps of the first decade of the nineteenth century.

This coming weekend I am heading off for El Paso, Texas, for the second stop on the Roadshow tour this summer. One tends to expect to see things of local interest, but then again most of the things I saw in Eugene had little to do with Oregon. There are, of course, lots of great items related to Texas history: prints and maps. As I discussed in my blog of relative values for maps of different states, anything related to Texas history tends to be worth more than things related to the history of other states, so if I see a good view, battle scene or map of Texas history, it is likely to be worth a fair bit.

This brings up an issue I’ll briefly mention to end this blog, that is the importance of price or value for items on Antiques Roadshow. Early on, it was the big prices of some of the items which were filmed ($20,000!) that caught viewer’s attention on the show. However, large prices are not enough to sustain fifteen seasons of interest. It is a good story about an item that the producers are looking for. Yes, the price is important (most regular viewers I know are always trying to guess the value of items as they watch), but the story of the items is more so. Good thing for me, as on the whole maps and prints are in the lower price range in the world of antiques, but most of them have really interesting stories (to me especially). Here’s hoping to a bunch of fascinating and valuable items in El Paso!