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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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Four Historical Prints
Oct 08, 9:00 AM EDT
Four Historical Prints
by Dovetail Auctions, LLC
Est: $5- $500
$51 Bid
FRAMED FRAGMENT OF HISTORICAL CHINTZ DEPICTING WM PENN TREATY SIGNING
Oct 07, 10:00 AM EDT
FRAMED FRAGMENT OF HISTORICAL CHINTZ DEPICTING WM PENN TREATY SIGNING
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $800- $1,200
$4001 Bid
After Paul Revere engraving of the Boston Massacre
Oct 07, 9:00 AM EDT
After Paul Revere engraving of the Boston Massacre
by Pook & Pook Inc.
Est: $800- $1,200
$4001 Bid
Artist-Keith Hill Framed Print of A WWII Spitfire
Oct 09, 7:00 PM BST
Artist-Keith Hill Framed Print of A WWII Spitfire
by James Auctioneers London
Est: £125- £175
£1200 Bids
19thc Civil War Engraving, Fort Beauregard, Fort Walker, Port Royal, SC
Nov 05, 2:00 PM EDT
19thc Civil War Engraving, Fort Beauregard, Fort Walker, Port Royal, SC
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $40- $80
$200 Bids
handgekleurde gravure met voorstelling van 'Siege de maastricht par l'armeeFrancaise en 1794', uitge
Oct 03, 7:00 PM CEST
handgekleurde gravure met voorstelling van 'Siege de maastricht par l'armeeFrancaise en 1794', uitge
by Veilinghuis Van Spengen
Est: €150- €200
€1500 Bids
1863 PRINT OF GETTYSBURG & MAP
Oct 07, 10:00 AM EDT
1863 PRINT OF GETTYSBURG & MAP
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $20- $30
$100 Bids
FRAMED CIVIL WAR BATTLE PRINT BY LESLIE
Oct 07, 10:00 AM EDT
FRAMED CIVIL WAR BATTLE PRINT BY LESLIE
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $150- $200
$800 Bids
FRAMED CIVIL WAR BATTLE PRINT BY LESLIE
Oct 07, 10:00 AM EDT
FRAMED CIVIL WAR BATTLE PRINT BY LESLIE
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $150- $250
$800 Bids
FRAMED CIVIL WAR BATTLE PRINT BY LESLIE
Oct 07, 10:00 AM EDT
FRAMED CIVIL WAR BATTLE PRINT BY LESLIE
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $150- $200
$800 Bids
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B(runow), D(iedrik) R(einhold): «Min Resa til Fots under Kriget i Tyskland…», 1815.
Oct 22, 10:00 AM CEST
B(runow), D(iedrik) R(einhold): «Min Resa til Fots under Kriget i Tyskland…», 1815.
by SD Auctions
Est: 800 kr- 1,200 kr
600 kr0 Bids
19thc Wood Engraving, Civil War Sailors
Nov 05, 2:00 PM EDT
19thc Wood Engraving, Civil War Sailors
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $50- $100
$400 Bids
STEEL ENGRAVING COUNCIL OF WAR, 1861, UNFRAMED
Oct 07, 10:00 AM EDT
STEEL ENGRAVING COUNCIL OF WAR, 1861, UNFRAMED
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $350- $450
$1750 Bids
Merian - Battle Scene, 1697
Oct 01, 10:00 AM CDT
Merian - Battle Scene, 1697
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $500- $1,500
$1000 Bids
(3) 19TH C. ENGRAVINGS OF WASHINGTON AND BUNKER HILL BY JOHN TRUMBULL, HENRY BRUECKNER CHRISTIAN SCHUSSELE
Oct 07, 10:00 AM EDT
(3) 19TH C. ENGRAVINGS OF WASHINGTON AND BUNKER HILL BY JOHN TRUMBULL, HENRY BRUECKNER CHRISTIAN SCHUSSELE
by Thomaston Place Auction Galleries
Est: $300- $400
$1500 Bids
AFTER WILLIAM HEATH
Oct 19, 12:00 PM BST
AFTER WILLIAM HEATH
by Olympia Auctions
Est: £600- £800
£3000 Bids
Merian - Battle in London, England under the Rule of William III, Prince of Orange
Oct 08, 10:00 AM CDT
Merian - Battle in London, England under the Rule of William III, Prince of Orange
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $500- $1,500
$500 Bids
Bowyer - Grand Entry of the Allied Sovereigns into Leipzig (Leipsic), Germany
Oct 08, 10:00 AM CDT
Bowyer - Grand Entry of the Allied Sovereigns into Leipzig (Leipsic), Germany
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $400- $800
$750 Bids
Bowyer - Ceremony of Tedeum by the Allied Armies on the Square of Louis XV at Paris
Oct 08, 10:00 AM CDT
Bowyer - Ceremony of Tedeum by the Allied Armies on the Square of Louis XV at Paris
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $400- $800
$750 Bids
Merian - Pair of English Battle Scene Engravings including Ships in Harbor and Fleet Formation
Oct 08, 10:00 AM CDT
Merian - Pair of English Battle Scene Engravings including Ships in Harbor and Fleet Formation
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $500- $1,500
$500 Bids
Merian - English and Dutch Armatta Battling the French
Oct 01, 10:00 AM CDT
Merian - English and Dutch Armatta Battling the French
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $500- $1,500
$1000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell History Prints


Thomaston Place Auction Galleries

Thomaston Place Auction Galleries

Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books

Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books

Connoisseur Online

Connoisseur Online

Weschler's

Weschler's