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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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[CANADA]. [BLATCHLY, William Daniel (1838-1903), artist]. P...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[CANADA]. [BLATCHLY, William Daniel (1838-1903), artist]. P...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
[HART, Charles (1824-1914), printer and lithographer]. YOUN...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[HART, Charles (1824-1914), printer and lithographer]. YOUN...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Capture of Fort Fisher. [C...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Capture of Fort Fisher. [C...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $150- $250
$801 Bid
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Battle of Stone River. [Ch...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Battle of Stone River. [Ch...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $150- $250
$801 Bid
Kendall & Nebel's War between the United States and Mexico… - Volume with 13 Folio Lithographs
May 25, 10:00 AM CDT
Kendall & Nebel's War between the United States and Mexico… - Volume with 13 Folio Lithographs
by Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books
Est: $18,000- $24,000
$5,0001 Bid
[BUFFORD, J. H. (1810-1870), Lithographer]. Genls. Harney, ...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[BUFFORD, J. H. (1810-1870), Lithographer]. Genls. Harney, ...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
[FORBES, Edwin (1839-1895), etcher]. Pair of Copperplate Et...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[FORBES, Edwin (1839-1895), etcher]. Pair of Copperplate Et...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
Group of 20 Assorted Etchings or Prints. [V.p., ca. 1860s-1...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
Group of 20 Assorted Etchings or Prints. [V.p., ca. 1860s-1...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $300- $400
$1500 Bids
[PRANG, Louis (1824-1909), printer and lithographer]. Chrom...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[PRANG, Louis (1824-1909), printer and lithographer]. Chrom...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
[HARPER’S WEEKLY]. Grant Receiving His Commission as Lieute...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[HARPER’S WEEKLY]. Grant Receiving His Commission as Lieute...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Battle Between the Monitor...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Battle Between the Monitor...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $1,000- $1,200
$5000 Bids
[LEE, Robert E. (1807-1870), and GRANT, Ulysses S. (1822-18...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[LEE, Robert E. (1807-1870), and GRANT, Ulysses S. (1822-18...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $150- $250
$800 Bids
[LEUTZE, Emauel (1816-1868), artist]. Grant at the Capture ...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[LEUTZE, Emauel (1816-1868), artist]. Grant at the Capture ...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $150- $250
$800 Bids
[WALTER, A. B. (1820-1875), engraver]. Full-Length Portrait...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[WALTER, A. B. (1820-1875), engraver]. Full-Length Portrait...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $300- $500
$1500 Bids
[HARPER’S WEEKLY]. Group of 15 Engraved Prints Appearing in...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[HARPER’S WEEKLY]. Group of 15 Engraved Prints Appearing in...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Pair of Chromolithographs,...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Pair of Chromolithographs,...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
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MAX OPPENHEIMER (Vienna 1885 - 1954 New York)
May 28, 3:00 PM CEST
MAX OPPENHEIMER (Vienna 1885 - 1954 New York)
by Widder Auctions
Est: €400- €800
€4000 Bids
[LITHOGRAPHY]. Group of 4 Black and White Lithographs or En...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[LITHOGRAPHY]. Group of 4 Black and White Lithographs or En...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $100- $300
$500 Bids
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Pair of Chromolithographs....
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[KURZ & ALLISON, LITHOGRAPHERS]. Pair of Chromolithographs....
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $250- $350
$1250 Bids
1704-1720. GRABADO: (HISTORIA INGLATERRA). [CHATEL…
May 28, 4:00 PM CEST
1704-1720. GRABADO: (HISTORIA INGLATERRA). [CHATEL…
by Soler y Llach
Est: €0- €0
€1000 Bids
[PRANG, Louis (1824-1909), printer and lithographer]. Group...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[PRANG, Louis (1824-1909), printer and lithographer]. Group...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $400- $600
$2000 Bids
[LITHOGRAPHY]. [BONAPARTE, Napoleon (1769-1821), subject]. ...
May 23, 10:00 AM CDT
[LITHOGRAPHY]. [BONAPARTE, Napoleon (1769-1821), subject]. ...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
Antique Civil War Period Engraving Gen. Hood
May 23, 12:00 PM EDT
Antique Civil War Period Engraving Gen. Hood
by Greenwich Auction
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
Antique Civil War Period Engraving Gen. Longstreet
May 23, 12:00 PM EDT
Antique Civil War Period Engraving Gen. Longstreet
by Greenwich Auction
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell History Prints


Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Early American History Auctions

Early American History Auctions

Berliner Auktionshaus GmbH & Co. KG

Berliner Auktionshaus GmbH & Co. KG

Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books

Trillium Antique Prints & Rare Books