History Prints

Beginning in the Renaissance, narrative paintings of great historical moments were held in high regard in Western art tradition. Esteemed painters created large-scale works of heroic battles and surrenders, considered the most difficult in the hierarchy of genres.

This view persisted in through the Baroque, Rococo, and Neoclassical periods, and did not waver until 19th century artists began to resist against the academic and government influence on art making. Prior to the invention of the lithograph, detailed etchings and engravings of history paintings were made as inexpensive reproductions of works on canvas or frescos for framing and decoration, or as book illustrations.

In 18th century France, printmakers combined both etching and engraving, and eventually mezzotints to create highly finished prints. In contrast to cheap reproductions, these large prints were created laboriously and sold for high prices. Wood engraving was also popular until photomechanical reproduction methods in the mid 1880s rendered it obsolete.


Quick Facts

  • In the early 19th century Great Britain, it was often more profitable for an artist to sell the copyright of a painting to printmakers for reproduction than to sell the painting itself
  • In Leon Battista Alberti's 1436 treatise on paintings, it was first said that history paintings and subject matter had the greatest ability to impact the viewer and thus became known as the most noble form of art
  • Battista's opinion was reinforced by Giorgio Vasari in "Lives of the Artists," printed in the 16th century, and is still considered one of the most important early books on art

Recommended Items at Auction

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Framed print: WW2 ‘G – George: Homeward Bound’ by Ron Blackburn, Lancaster RAAF 460 Squadron
Oct 17, 9:00 AM AWST
Framed print: WW2 ‘G – George: Homeward Bound’ by Ron Blackburn, Lancaster RAAF 460 Squadron
by JB Military Antiques
Est: AUD300- AUD400
AUD3504 Bids
HOLOCAUST PRINTS SHOW HORRORS IN FLOSSENBERG CONCENTRATION CAMP (12)
Oct 31, 8:00 AM EDT
HOLOCAUST PRINTS SHOW HORRORS IN FLOSSENBERG CONCENTRATION CAMP (12)
by Alexander Historical Auctions LLC
Est: $200- $300
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Australian SASR glass framed prints by Ian Coate (2)
Oct 17, 9:00 AM AWST
Australian SASR glass framed prints by Ian Coate (2)
by JB Military Antiques
Est: AUD100- AUD150
AUD901 Bid
Australian SASR by Ian Coate glass framed print
Oct 17, 9:00 AM AWST
Australian SASR by Ian Coate glass framed print
by JB Military Antiques
Est: AUD250- AUD300
AUD1801 Bid
Rhodesian framed print Greys Scouts and Roll of Honour 5th Battalion Rhodesian Regiment 1972 – 79
Oct 17, 9:00 AM AWST
Rhodesian framed print Greys Scouts and Roll of Honour 5th Battalion Rhodesian Regiment 1972 – 79
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Est: AUD50- AUD60
AUD300 Bids
Rhodesian classic Fire Force glass framed prints (2)
Oct 17, 9:00 AM AWST
Rhodesian classic Fire Force glass framed prints (2)
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Est: AUD150- AUD200
AUD1200 Bids
Australian SASR framed prints (1) and Iraq War signed print (1)
Oct 17, 9:00 AM AWST
Australian SASR framed prints (1) and Iraq War signed print (1)
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Est: AUD200- AUD300
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GRUPPO DI QUATTRO BATTAGLIE - GROUP OF FOUR BATTLES
Oct 21, 10:00 AM CEST
GRUPPO DI QUATTRO BATTAGLIE - GROUP OF FOUR BATTLES
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Est: €0- €0
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19th C. Roberts, "Sinking of the Pirate Alabama.."
Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
19th C. Roberts, "Sinking of the Pirate Alabama.."
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Est: $100- $200
$250 Bids
B8 RARE An early Battle of Britain Museum Appeal Hurricane print signed by Group Captain Sir Douglas
Oct 27, 10:00 AM BST
B8 RARE An early Battle of Britain Museum Appeal Hurricane print signed by Group Captain Sir Douglas
by Chaucer Covers & Auctions
Est: £60- £80
£600 Bids
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ALPHONSE DE NEUVILLE "Batalla" ALPHONSE DE NEUVILLE "Batalla"
Oct 26, 4:30 PM CEST
ALPHONSE DE NEUVILLE "Batalla" ALPHONSE DE NEUVILLE "Batalla"
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Est: €0- €0
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Engraving: Etching watercolor - Battle of Castiglione / Napoleonic - after VERNET Carle
Oct 24, 1:30 PM CEST
Engraving: Etching watercolor - Battle of Castiglione / Napoleonic - after VERNET Carle
by Monsantic.com
Est: €100- €150
€1000 Bids
AN ANTIQUE RUSSIAN LITHOGRAPH ALDERBERG FAMILY
Oct 30, 10:00 AM EDT
AN ANTIQUE RUSSIAN LITHOGRAPH ALDERBERG FAMILY
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$100 Bids
JOHN MARTIN The Fall of Nineveh.
Nov 02, 10:30 AM EDT
JOHN MARTIN The Fall of Nineveh.
by Swann Auction Galleries
Est: $1,500- $2,500
$1,1000 Bids
PATRIOTIC FRONTISPIECE ENGRAVING FOR SPENCER'S NEW HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Oct 31, 8:00 AM EDT
PATRIOTIC FRONTISPIECE ENGRAVING FOR SPENCER'S NEW HISTORY OF ENGLAND
by Alexander Historical Auctions LLC
Est: $40- $60
$200 Bids

Sellers Who Sell History Prints


JB Military Antiques

JB Military Antiques

Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

Arte Subastas Bilbao

Arte Subastas Bilbao

Swann Auction Galleries

Swann Auction Galleries