Except otherwise stated, all results include the premium.
See also : Prints Political writing Origins of sports
Chronology : 1820-1829
1649 Christ healing the Sick by Rembrandt
The prototype is a theme from the Gospels, Christ healing the Sick, completed ca 1649. In competition with the new mezzotint technique, Rembrandt is skilled in obtaining half tones by varying the inking. Contrasts in the sharpness of the lines create an atmosphere by highlighting some areas of the image. The image of the example in the Rijksmuseum is shared by Wikimedia.
In 1650 the Shell is a search for a wider number of themes, here highlighted in a bold oblique composition. An example was sold for £ 730K by Christie's on December 7, 2023, lot 70.
1653 St. Jerome by Rembrandt
2023 SOLD for £ 1.55M by Christie's
St. Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape was prepared in that intermediate period. Its terminus ante quem is 1653 with the first image of the unfinished Passion series.
An example of the first state of two, made by etching and drypoint on 26 x 21 cm warm toned Japan paper, was sold for £ 1.55M from a lower estimate of £ 500K by Christie's on December 7, 2023, lot 31 in the sale of the Josefowitz collection.
St. Jerome, who is a recurring character in Rembrandt's prints, is here identified only by the lion which looks at the Italian scenery. There is a contrast between the sketched figure of the saint in a blank sunlight and the detailed landscape in the Venetian style of Giorgione and Titian.
#AuctionUpdate #Rembrandt's 'Saint Jerome reading in an Italian Landscape' achieved £1,522,500 (more than 3x the low estimate). This magnificent sheet has everything Rembrandt achieved as a printmaker in his later, experimental years: https://t.co/FIGR4o5Ui7 pic.twitter.com/S75jkltNiH— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 7, 2023
The Passion by REMBRANDT
1653 Christ crucified between Two Thieves
2022 SOLD for £ 1.46M by Christie's
His solutions are innovative. The dry point was used until then in addition to etching and chisel for minor reworks of the drawing. Rembrandt attempts compositions entirely in dry point.
Applied obliquely like a pencil, his needle improves the variety of the line. The incision of the stylus in the copper is shallow, allowing a harmony between the drawing and the inkings left voluntarily on the plate to bring brightness and shadows.
His second work and first masterpiece in these improved techniques is The Three Crosses, also known as Christ crucified between the two thieves, 38 x 45 cm. The innovative poignant composition also features a crowd of mourners including the fainted Mary, plus a centurion converted by the last breath of Christ.
The third state with a dramatically increased shade was considered as finished by Rembrandt who dated it 1653. 22 impressions of that state are known including three in private hands. One of them on white laid paper with the Strasbourg watermark was sold for £ 1.46M from a lower estimate of £ 800K by Christie's on July 7, 2022, lot 17.
1653 was otherwise a very difficult year for the artist facing the consequences of Saskia's death on his family life, financial issues close to bankruptcy and the continuation of the Anglo-Dutch war that slowed the demands of the customers.
The next state of the Three Crosses was a further technical development made necessary from the wear out of the plate. It was possibly made just before the 1655 Ecce Homo that does not use the same Strasbourg watermarked paper. Before that consideration, it had been dated ca 1661.
He worked differently for that fourth state, replacing on the same plate the subtle smoky contrasts by diagonal strokes. The scene is now closed like by two dark curtains that focus the viewer's eye on the figure of the dying Christ. The drawings are highly modified.
A richly inked impression from the fourth state was sold for £ 420K by Christie's on December 2, 2008, lot 49. A fine impression of the same state on Japan paper was sold for £ 470K on December 5, 2006, also by Christie's, lot 201.
These processes could not satisfy the artist because of the painstaking preparation of the ink shades and of the necessarily incomplete and frustrating repairs to the worn plates, after a mere 3 runs of low production. He will not reuse this technique, giving up the possible project of a dry point series on the Passion of Christ.
A fifth state was created after a local printer acquired the plate.
1653 Christ crucified between Two Thieves
2023 SOLD for £ 1.23M by Christie's
Its margins in all sides are wider than the example above, 396 x 465 mm overall paper size compared to 388 x 453 mm.
#AuctionUpdate #Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn's 'Christ crucified between the two Thieves: 'The Three Crosses'' realised £1,225,800. Rembrandt's genius was reflected in his passion for printmaking and his ground-breaking, experimental approach to the graphic medium. pic.twitter.com/EnNL28FQiz— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) December 7, 2023
1655 Ecce Homo
2018 SOLD for £ 2.65M by Christie's
After his Christ crucified, the artist prepares in the same size another multi-figure scene of the Passion, Ecce Homo (Christ presented to the people). The Japan paper is smaller than his copperplate and he adds a narrow extra stripe at the top of the image.
A 38 x 45 cm impression of the first state of Ecce Homo was sold for £ 2.65M by Christie's on July 5, 2018, lot 22. It is the only copy remaining in private hands from the first four states of this image.
The Ecce Homo is inspired from the same theme printed by Lucas van Leyden in 1520, Rembrandt displaying a closer view conducing to a theatrical staging of the action in which Christ is presented on a raised terrace in front of Pilate’s palace. The figures including Christ are described in outlines. This voluntarily sketchy impression improves the immediacy of the action.
Christ's presentation matches the contemporary Netherlandish judicial practice. The viewer is pushed by the artist in the midst of the attending crowd. The palace is in the style of the new Amsterdam town hall opened in the same year, 1655.
The copper plates wear out, preventing large printing. From the fourth state the plate is cut down by about 25 mm in height, removing the architrave. The artist deliberately blurs some damaged areas of the Ecce Homo after its fourth state.
A 36 x 46 cm impression from the fifth state on heavy laid paper without watermark was sold for £ 510K by Sotheby's on December 6, 2023, lot 13.
Rembrandt changed the composition drastically in the later states. The eighth and last state is dated 1655.
1795 Large Color Print by Blake
2004 SOLD for $ 3.9M by Sotheby's
Of modest origin, son of a hosier, he follows an original path, wishing the union of all religions, in hostile reaction against the philosophers of Reason. To prepare his illuminated books, he develops in 1788 a technique of relief etching.
In 1795 Blake is tempted by using engraving techniques for images in larger format. He takes up twelve themes from his previous works, inspired by the Bible, Shakespeare and Milton, without forgetting the famous figures of Newton and Nebuchadnezzar. This set is known as the Large Color Prints. He reworked the finishing of several prints around 1805.
For this series he is preparing his drawings on gessoed cardboard, with perhaps one exception on copper. Each matrix can be used two to four times. The technique was not documented in period, but these images should not be assimilated to monotypes. The watercoloring is often very different between works from the same matrix.
The total surviving production for the 12 themes is 30 copies, three of which are in private hands. On May 5, 2004, Sotheby's sold a Large color print for $ 3.9M, lot 5. Its theme of Good and Evil Angels struggling for possession of a child is inspired from Swedenborg. This image 44 x 58 cm is vividly colored.
1799 Los Caprichos by Goya
2014 SOLD for $ 1.45M by Christie's
In his detailed view, civilization is a collection of physical and moral horrors. Goya chooses to print these images by himself. The aquatint enables a beautiful sepia tone that made him from his first trials one of the best imagemakers of his time. He will be also up to the end of his life a passionate experimenter with all modern printing techniques.
Composed of 80 plates 30 x 20 cm, the Caprichos series is designed and prepared in 1797 and 1798. The famous image "El sueño de la razón produce monstruos" was not chosen as the title of the whole, but is a guide to open our eyes to the fact that the nightmare of attitudes or the abjection of heads and bodies are not only in the dream.
He went too boldly for his time in this amalgam of religion, nobility and witchcraft. Yet he hoped for success and prepared 300 copies in 1799, but hurriedly decided to suspend the sale after a few days because of the disgrace of his patron Godoy.
On January 28, 2014, Christie's sold for $ 1.45M from a lower estimate of $ 400K a complete set of proof prints of Los Caprichos, lot 9. This set in a period binding includes five plates that will be slightly modified in the original version.
1816 La Tauromaquia by Goya
2013 SOLD for $ 1.9M by Christie's
Goya himself had practiced bullfighting. He had admired Illo, who was with Pedro Romero one of the great reformers of that art. Horrified as we know by wars, Goya could not fail to devote a full set of prints to this deadly game in which the man was not always the winner.
La Tauromaquia is the saga of the corrida de toros, published in 33 prints by Goya in Madrid in 1816, and showing the feats and death of Illo. The aquatints were prepared by drypoint, and two of them are enhanced by a wash.
A complete original set, remarkably homogeneous, was sold for $ 1.9M from a lower estimate of $ 400K by Christie's on April 9, 2013, lot 67. Images on an oblong sheet 28 x 40 cm are accompanied by a page on the same paper with the handwritten list of titles. The set is assembled in a binding of that time.
1824 facsimile of the US Declaration of Independence
2021 SOLD for $ 4.4M by Freeman's
The duplicate signed by the 56 delegates in early August, 1776 was becoming a symbol of the American liberty. Unfortunately it was badly deteriorating. In 1820 the Secretary of State and future President John Quincy Adams commissioned the printer William J. Stone to print an exact facsimile.
The engraving was made with a wet ink process by which some of the original ink was transferred to a copper plate which was etched. The engraving was completed and dated in 1823 and the printing was made in 1824 in 200 copies on 80 x 70 cm vellum. Approximately fifty are located.
Two copies were presented to one of the three surviving original signers, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, former delegate and senator of Maryland, aged 87. They were presented by Carroll to his grandson-in-law in 1826 after the death of the last two other signers, former Presidents John Adams and Jefferson.
One of them, inscribed by Carroll, went in 1844 to the Maryland Historical Society. The grandson-in-law copied this inscription on the other document with a reference to the autographed Carroll copy.
This second Carroll copy was discovered in a Scottish attic by Cathy Marsden, specialist of rare books at the Edinburgh auction company Lyon and Turnbull, and transferred for auction to their sister company Freeman's based in Philadelphia. It was sold by Freeman's on July 1, 2021 for $ 4.4M from a lower estimate of $ 500K, lot 1. Please watch the video shared by Freeman's.
A historic discovery! Our sister auction house, Freeman’s, is pleased to announce the sale of a signer’s copy of William J. Stone’s 1823 printing of the #DeclarationofIndependence recently rediscovered in Scotland by Lyon & Turnbull. Find out more: https://t.co/RiosDcVn4k pic.twitter.com/xSL20pV2Do— Lyon & Turnbull (@LyonandTurnbull) June 24, 2021
1831 The Great Wave by HOKUSAI
Begun in 1831 at the age of 71, the series of 26 x 38 cm prints titled 36 Views of Mount Fuji is his most ambitious work, which will include not 36 plates but 46. The sacred mountain is shown on all its faces, at any time, in any weather, in all seasons, with an interpretation of perspective that is new in Japanese art. It occupies a larger or smaller section of the horizon and is almost always faced with human occupation. This series should not be confused with its continuation, the 100 Views of Mount Fuji, prepared from 1834 to 1840.
The first three opus of the first series are masterpieces, by the balance of the composition based on a strict geometry, the beauty of the Prussian blue recently imported to Japan, and the emotional dimension.
The very first is the Great Wave off Kanagawa. A specialized craftsman had chiseled seven separate cherrywood blocks through the drawing. The original piece was lost and the prints weakened irreparably as production went on. The catalogers of the auction houses clearly fail to highlight the sharper impressions. About 130 prints remain from an edition of about 8,000.
A gigantic wave surrounds fishing boats while rejecting its foam and spray over the entire surface of the image. It has the shape of a double comma simulating yin and yang, in the background of which Mount Fuji is posed like a deity impassive to the perdition of men.
The quiet boats wrapped in the wave are certainly intended to counter an Edo interdict to report on disasters. Hokusai is indeed never an illustrator of disasters.
This wave is a natural force that probably inspired van Gogh's Starry Night.
2023 SOLD for $ 2.76M by Christie's
A well preserved very early example 25.1 x 37.1 cm was sold for $ 2.76M from a lower estimate of $ 500K by Christie's on March 21, 2023, lot 122. It had been printed before the title cartouche was slightly worn, creating breaks at that place in most surviving examples. It had been kept in the same family since the early 1900s.
with right margin
2021 SOLD for $ 1.6M by Christie's
An example 25.1 x 37.1 cm of the Great Wave was sold for $ 1.26M by Christie's on September 19, 2023, lot 58. Another copy was sold for $ 1.1M by Christie's on September 22, 2020, lot 117. Its size is large, 27.5 x 38.1 cm, but with no margin visible on the photo in the catalogue.
A copy of the second opus, the Red Fuji, was sold for $ 510K by Christie's on March 19, 2019, lot 235. Its size is 25.4 x 37.8 cm. The simple and effective geometry anticipates the Montagnes Sainte-Victoire by Cézanne.