An antique print has nine lives. I will demonstrate this by following the history of a 200 year old antique print and track it from the time it was created to the present time. Each change in state or ownership will be considered a “life”.
The print started as a sketch executed by an unknown artist that traveled by ship to Africa with an unknown explorer. The timing was the late 1700’s or about the time of the Napoleonic wars.
The sketch was transformed into a copper engraving by Jacob Xaver Schmuzer. He did the best that he could but as you can see below, the lion looked “interesting”. Schmuzer had never seen a lion in real life – very few people had.
Gottlieb Tobias Wilhelm of Germany had the engraving printed and put together in a group of books called Unterhaltungen aus der Naturgeschiche. (Discourse on Natural History).
The next person to change the state of the print was the colorist. This person took the black and white engraving and turned it into the colored print that you see. It is likely that the colorist was a young girl. Today, the printer would be guilty of child labor infringement rules. The person that ordered the set of books must have been wealthy because hand colored prints cost 3 to 5 times as much as uncolored ones.
In approximately 1810, the set of books was purchased and became part of the library of a wealthy owner. Keep in mind that the books in this library went through almost two centuries of variable temperatures and conditions. Air conditioning was not invented.
This particular life was long and lasted ten generations. It was passed from family to family and from library to library. During this time it lived in three different countries and even spent about 40 years unopened and stored in attic.
An antique “picker” bought the books that were falling apart and sold them to a customer in America. The print looked forward to the trip.
I bought the book which and rescued the print. After over 200 years, the antique print was ready to live its next life. It was ready to become appreciated.
The print of the lion or tiger is now ready to take it to its next life. You can buy it, mat and frame it and hang it on your wall. Anyone that sees it will say “that’s a cute lion”.
Is it not appropriate that our antique print examples that have nine lives are cats? At some point in the future we will tell you the story of a print from 1560 that has had fourteen lives.
About the Author:
SANDTIQUE is one of the largest sellers of Antique Prints on E-Bay with almost 11,000 listings. SANDTIQUE specializes in chromolithographs and hand-colored engravings and is featuring original woodcuts by Virgil Solis from the 1561 Luther Bible.
Check us out at www.sandtique-rare-printsandmaps.com.