Bargain Old Master prints
September 29 2014
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.”