Fakes, Forgeries & Facsimiles: Original copies
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The difference between an original and a copy is sometimes only a matter of perspective...


Wenceslaus Hollar etching, 1640 impression

Wenceslaus Hollar etching, 1640 impression

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)
Ornatus muliebris Anglicanus or The severall habits of English women
[London, s.n.,1640]

All prints, by their nature, are reproductions of an image created on another surface. However, etchings are usually thought of as original works of art, too. Artists such as Hollar scratched their own compositions directly into a layer of varnish on a copper plate, using a chemical bath to cut into the plate itself. Engraving, in contrast, requires gouging lines into the plate by hand. This laborious task was generally done by copyists working from an artist's drawing.

Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677)
Ornatus muliebris Anglicanus
or The severall habits of English women
[London]: Sold by H. Overton [1734?]

This image was printed from the same copper plate as the 1640 print, but notice the heavy cross-hatching now added to the shadows. Etched plates wear out quickly and have to be re-touched. Even though it was printed over fifty years after Hollar's death and was re-touched by someone else, this late impression is still an original Hollar print because the plate was etched by the man himself. Early impressions have a higher market value than later ones, but all are "genuine."

Wenceslaus Hollar etching, 1734 impression

Wenceslaus Hollar etching, 1734 impression

 


Photo of Edwin Forrest, by Mathew Brady, ca. 1858

Photo of Edwin Forrest as Lear, by Mathew Brady, ca. 1858

Painting of Edwin Forrest, by Gabriel Harrison, 1872

Painting of Edwin Forrest as Lear, by Gabriel Harrison, 1872

This looks like obvious fakery. However, Gabriel Harrison made no secret of the fact that he used photographs underneath his paintings of Edwin Forrest. There is no intent to deceive. Like the mythological origin of painting in the tracing of shadows on a wall, Harrison used a "shadow" recorded on light-sensitive paper as the basis for the painting on the right. Ironically, when Harrison published his portrait of Edwin Forrest as King Lear in a fine press limited edition book, he assured subscribers that the plates were destroyed after printing, "so that there is no possibility of duplicates."

Fakes, Forgeries & Facsimiles Exhibition Highlights

Can you spot the fake? | Original copies | Facsimile "witchery" | Famous owners? | False imprints | The Headless Horseman | William Henry Ireland | John Payne Collier | Shakespeare's Mulberry Tree |

Exhibition Intro | Visiting the Folger



This page updated January 26, 2004