Bargain Old Master prints

September 29 2014

Image of Bargain Old Master prints

Picture: Sotheby's

In the New York Times, Scott Reyburn says the market for Old Master prints, such as Rembrandt's sublime 'Three Trees' etching above, is changing:

In the past, the arcane technicalities of printmaking have intimidated potential clients, turning the field into a niche sector. But now, encouraged by the soaring prices of original art and the availability of images of these prints online, a new international crowd that doesn’t know the difference between etching and drypoint, or mezzotint and lithotint — and isn’t really that bothered — has entered the market.

“These sales have become image-driven,” said the London-based art adviser Patrick Legant, who attended both Sotheby’s auction, and the 192-lot print selection Christie’s offered the following day. “People are attracted by lovely things with art-historical gravitas that are reasonably priced,” he added.

Like Rembrandt, Albrecht Dürer has long been recognized as one of the greatest of all print-makers. Sotheby’s sale opened with 20 of his engravings and woodcuts, including some of his most famous compositions, many of which appeal to contemporary sensibilities. With its estimate of £4,000-£6,000, a posthumously printed “Melencolia I” wasn’t an example for the purists, but the sheer power of the image drew a telephone purchase at £25,000. Three-quarters of the Dürers sold, with a further £50,000 — double the low estimate — given for his 1515 woodcut, “The Rhinoceros.”

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