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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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Filomarino - Mount Vesuvius Volcano Erupting. 27
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Filomarino - Mount Vesuvius Volcano Erupting. 27
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Est: $500- $1,000
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Filomarino - Mount Vesuvius Volcano Erupting. 26
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Filomarino - Mount Vesuvius Volcano Erupting. 26
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HAND COLORED PRINT OF COLONIAL BATTLE
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HAND COLORED PRINT OF COLONIAL BATTLE
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19th Century Hand colored Lithograph "The Boston Boys"
Mar 01, 10:00 AM EST
19th Century Hand colored Lithograph "The Boston Boys"
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GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE LITHOGRAPH PRINT
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GEORGE WASHINGTON CROSSING THE DELAWARE LITHOGRAPH PRINT
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Franz ADAM (1815-1886) nach, ''Schlacht von Borodino 1812'', Radierung.
Mar 15, 12:00 PM CET
Franz ADAM (1815-1886) nach, ''Schlacht von Borodino 1812'', Radierung.
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Copper engraving, The siege of Venlo by the Duke o…
Mar 11, 9:00 PM CET
Copper engraving, The siege of Venlo by the Duke o…
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19thc Civil War Engraving, Fort Beauregard, Fort Walker, Port Royal, SC
Mar 30, 2:00 PM EDT
19thc Civil War Engraving, Fort Beauregard, Fort Walker, Port Royal, SC
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Karl Bodmer, Swiss (1809-1893), Fort Union on the Missouri, 1841, hand colored aquatint
Mar 16, 10:00 AM CDT
Karl Bodmer, Swiss (1809-1893), Fort Union on the Missouri, 1841, hand colored aquatint
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Sellers Who Sell History Prints


Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books

Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books

Venduehuis Dickhaut Maastricht

Venduehuis Dickhaut Maastricht

Connoisseur Online

Connoisseur Online

Link Auction Galleries

Link Auction Galleries