You have seen them online and in antique shops and you like their antique look. You probably know that they are called antique prints but what does the term antique print mean? If you said, “Well, they are old prints, right,?” you would be correct but there is a little more explaining to do after that basic definition.
Categories of Antique Prints
Antique Prints are old prints, works of art on paper that are generally at least 100 years old. On the other hand, prints such as those by Rembrandt, Dürer, Brueghel and others are also by definition antique, but are classified more specifically into the category of Old Master Prints. There is also a category of prints called Fine Prints, but these generally refer to modern (Picasso, Chagall, and Hopper for example) prints and will not be a part of this discussion.
Price Differences between Antique Prints
There is a substantial price difference between the Old Master Prints and prints that are considered Antique Prints. Why? Old Masters prints were prints produced in a limited edition numbering from just a few to as many as a hundred or so. Old Master Prints are much rarer in most cases than those in the Antique Print category whose production was generally in greater numbers, but the Old Master Prints were also produced by artists whom are now considered Masters, and the prices reflect their rarity and level of artist recognition. One of those prints could easily cost multiple thousands of dollars. By comparison, you can get a beautiful hand-colored Antique Botanical Print by William Curtis (1700’s) from Stonegate Antique Prints for as little as $25.
Antique Prints and their Source
Antique Prints, on the other hand, are in most cases bookplates taken from rare, limited edition antiquarian books. Very few dealers take apart perfectly good volumes (thankfully, as it is considered unethical in the rare book trade to do so) but rather try to source antique prints from rare books that have condition problems (damaged bindings) or simply source the individual prints themselves. Many of these books cost many thousands to millions of dollars due to their rarity (Audubon, Gould, Redoute, Besler, Thornton, Catesby to mention some of the authors) and that rarity is reflected in their price. In general though, they cost less than their more far expensive cousins, the Old Master Prints.
Antique Prints Hand-Coloring and Printing
Many Antique Prints were hand-colored or hand-finished (some prints used printed color and were then finished by hand) by highly skilled print colorists and were painted during the period from approximately 1600-1900. The hand-coloring and the hand produced printing is what distinguishes them from modern, glossy, mass-produced lithography prints. In essence, each Antique Print is the work of an artist or team or artists who painted each print individually by hand. Given these positives, Antique Prints make a wonderful and affordable addition to any space, be it home or office.
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