Sunday, July 31, 2011

Official Reproductions

18th Century fashion engravings were so hard to find and popular at the same time, the Editions Rombaldi in France decided to publish a set of 24 engravings of the Galerie Des Modes et Costumes Francais 1778 to 1787 with the complicity and texts by Roger-Armand Weigert, curator at the Cabinet des Estampes at the National Library in Paris France.

This set was published in 1956 as a limited edition and I happen to own 782/4000. The engravings were exact reproductions of the antique prints, made as etchings and hand colored with stencils by Edmond Vairel. The differences are: the paper that is a very white and smooth modern Velin paper and there are no plate marks. It is very easy to recognize them as reproductions if you compare them to the ones I was mentioning in my previous post.

Here are a few samples of these engravings.

Need costuming ideas? I will place most of them in one of the side pages for reference for the Association Bal de Versailles.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Collecting Antique Fashion Prints: 18th Century Fashion Prints

Collecting Antique Fashion Prints: 18th Century Fashion Prints: "If it is impossible for the average (or not so average) collector to score an antique fashion print from the mid 18th Century or earlier, it..."

18th Century Fashion Prints

If it is impossible for the average (or not so average) collector to score an antique fashion print from the mid 18th Century or earlier, it is still possible to find some Louis XVI prints (late 18th C).

However, please be warned, these are hard to find and there are a lot of copies. And the copies look just like the real thing, for some were actually made in the 19th C. The copies are mentioned in detail in Raymond Gaudriault Repertoire de la Gravure de Mode Francaise des Origines a 1815.

Thanks to my Father, who took me rummaging in St Ouen's antique dealer's shops, I may have one of them. OK I am not sure! And there is no way for me to be certain at this time. Maybe the experts at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, France, could. I will keep this in mind next time I have the chance to go back to France for a visit. But in the meantime, I will assume it is the real thing. And it sure looks like it.

First clue: the print is on paper that shows the regular ridges left by the mesh of threads that supported the sheet of paper as it dried.

Second clue: the paper is showing a lot of age damage from just being poorly preserved. It has yellowed to almost a brownish tone and has the typical waves due to humidity even though it has been placed in a mat and tensed on a board probably in the 19th Century.

Third clue: The engraving shows the plate marks from the copper plate used to print. (in truth these can be faked)

Fourth clue: the colors used are sort of muted by the yellowing and old age. Colors and especially the water based colors used at the time would loose a lot of their brightness.

Fifth clue: the comment on the bottom of the print is showing all the characters used at the time this print was presumably published. Including mention of the sculptor, Dupin, who did the engraving part and of the artist, Watteau, who drew the original.

Note: the mention at the bottom of the print is absolutely charming. It says in French: "La jeune adolescente dont le coeur est occupe par l'amour sous les traits du charmant Landor, cherche a dissiper l'ennui que doit lui causer l'abscence de son amant, en remettant en captivite l'objet de son caprice. Elle est coiffee a l'enfant, robe a l'anglaise garnie." the english translation is:"The young teenager whom heart is occupied by Love for the charming Landor, tries to dissipate the boredom caused by her lover's absence, placing back in captivity the object of her caprice. She is styled as a child, English style dress with ornamentation."

Now what makes me think this fashion print could be a reproduction?

Well first there is no Plate number on the top right corner. This engraving has been accounted for as part of the 46th Cahier de Costumes Francois, 41st Suite d'habillements a la mode en 1785. This print should bear the mention: Pl290. I am not sure yet what to make of the fact it is missing. It might not be consequential at all or yet again it could.

Speaking of the plate number, I have another 18th C plate that could be a real antique. Or not! Again it is on nice thick paper with the marks of the thread mesh that is expected in antique paper. The plate marks also are present even though the engraving has been cut around at the plate marks.
The print has on its right top corner the mention Pl.213. The legend at the bottom starts by: La brillante Raymonde, apres le dinner, ... (The brilliant Raymonde, after dinner,...) and according to Raymond Gaudriault, the print with this legend should bear the number: Pl.296.

This is puzzling to say the least.

The series of publications under the title: La Galerie Des Modes et Costumes Francais, published by Esnaut and Rapilly from 1778 to 1787 is considered one of the most beautiful series of engravings of the late 18th C. It has been fairly well documented but still is not quite completely referenced. This allows me to think that the 2 prints I own might be the real deal.

In my next blog we will explore a series of famous reproductions of these coveted prints.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

I got fooled!

Oh Yes it happened!
I bought a coveted “Le Follet Courrier Des Salons” fashion print on the left bank in Paris. One of the “bouquinistes” had a stack of fashion prints I thought were antiques. So he said!

Well I got fooled!
The print was framed so it was not obvious at first glance but as I was curious to examine my new prized possession more closely I discovered pixels. And yes you read right! Pixels!

Certainly not a printing process in use in the 1830s when the print was supposed to have been engraved.

And pixels were not the only thing that should have raised a red flag but at the time since this print was the first “Le Follet Courrier Des Salons” I ever owned I would not have known. The size was wrong too.

In this next picture, you will see side by side a very real antique “Le Follet” print on the left and on its right the infamous copy I has to confess I own (Thank God shame does not kill anymore!).

As you can see the left print is significantly smaller than the right one. Maybe the forger thought a larger image would bring more money? We will never know but all the real “Le Follet Courrier Des Salons” prints I own are approximately the same size. The fake is too big.

Then if we examine the blue color in each print, the dress on the right shows the neatly lined up little blue dots – the so called pixels- when the blue skirt on the left shows a solid blue color as it should be.

So yes I got fooled but you do not have to. Check the color on a solid area and if you see very regular tiny dots lined up, a 20thC printing process was used to create a fake engraving of the 19thC.

Below are the pictures of other samples of “Le Follet Courrier Des Salons”.

Note: these prints do not show a year of publication but “Le Follet Courrier Des Salons” was published in France from 1829 to 1882 .
The prints can be dated from the style of the dresses and hats pictured and the style of drawing of faces (I will show a comparison of faces in a future blog).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

1802 Costume Parisien Fashion Print

On September 15th 1797 appeared the first issue of the “Journal Des Dames et Des Modes” a magazine born from the fusion of two previous magazine attempts, “Le Journal des Dames” published for about 5 months and the “Journal des Modes et des Nouveautes” for 5 issues only. The fusion of the two was scheduled to come out 3 times a week with a colored engraving every 15 days. (1)

And I probably should mention here that the colored engraving was entitled: Costume Parisien.

According to Raymond Gaudriault, this publication, created by Pierre de La Messangere, lasted from 1797 until 1839 and produced as many as 3,624 hand colored engravings.

These fashion prints are deemed rare and considering some are over 210 years old it is not surprising.

So how to spot a fake?
Well if everything matches then the print is most likely a good one.

And you could ask: “what do you mean “if everything matches”?”
I mean: the size, the paper, the printing method, the style of drawing (especially the faces - I will show all the different faces in fashion prints in a future blog. Stay tuned)
The finished size is only 5.5”x8.2”.
The paper has a slight roughness to it. It is also thicker than regular paper for books of that era, as to support the weight of the press.
There should be plate marks too. Plate marks are actually a crease left in the paper by the engraving block (whether it was a wood block or a copper plate).
Now the printing method of 1804 should be a wood block engraving with hand coloring. Any printing method invented later in time would obviously be wrong for the period. No lithography, photography and of course pixels. (Oh yes I got fooled by a fake with pixels - I will explain in a future blog)

Here are a few more examples of Costume Parisien. One dating 1804 and one with men fashion dating 1831.

Note that on the upper right corner you have the number 2934 . It is the issue number of the Journal Des Dames et des Modes corresponding to that engraving. This print is also a little bigger than the earlier ones and shows the creases left by a fold.

No it is not a careless homemaker who folded this engraving. Although I wondered one day rummaging in an antique dealer's stack of prints.

It is just the way they came originally with the issue of the original magazine. Folded to fit in the mail box.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So What is an Antique Fashion Print?

Good question.

The short answer is:
A typical fashion print is an engraving made on paper, usually nice and thick, with a wood block or a copper plate.

The better engravings were then colored by hand using stencils. The even better ones were colored one by one with watercolors.
How do I know?
It says so on the publication itself.
Just like today, a woman in the 19th Century was able to subscribe to her favorite magazine and receive her monthly or weekly load of stories, games, articles, novels and... fashion, including patterns and engraved illustration. The cheaper ones came with no fashion print at all. Then one could opt for the black and white engraving, the colored one or even the watercolored one.

Of course many of these publications have disappeared, been separated or lost. In the pictures below we have a pristine example of what the lady would receive in the mail, including all the patterns and of course...a fashion print.

This example of the Journal des Demoiselles published April 1st 1888 includes patterns, colored charts to make a silk fire screen, embroidery charts, one black and white engraving and a colored hats fashion print     

Now this was the short answer. Of course there is way more to it.
With advance in technology and printing techniques antique fashion prints evolved as well.

It is so complex that instead of attempting to go chronologically I will actually use the prints I have and explain what they are, how they were made and what makes them special.

By the way, anyone having questions is welcome to ask.


P.S.: If you want a very academical history of Fashion Prints and can read French, please enjoy Raymond Gaudriault's "La Gravure de Mode Feminine en France". It is certainly the most thorough research on the subject.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Decisions! Decisions!

That's it!
As I was unpacking several boxes long forgotten in a closet, I came across some fascinating fashion engravings I have collected over many many years.

And it is all my Mother's fault. She is the one who gave me my first two prints back when I moved from Paris, France, to Normandy.
She knew I loved fashion and she was an antique dealer. The fact is that I doubt she ever suspected I would become such an avid collector.
Now with well over a thousand fashion prints, some very unique and rare, I am anxious to get started.

And were to start?

There is so much to say about these precious images. Meant to spread new styles and fashions to women around Europe and America, they were found in the times equivalent of Vogue, Cosmopolitan or Woman's Day. Long before photography, publications had to have a way to illustrate stories and articles as well as to spread the ever so socially important fashion. Hence fashion prints.

However collecting Antique Fashion Prints has proven to be quite a challenge these days. As a collector, I discovered that it is very easy to be fooled by copies spread to tourists and other buyers by unscrupulous sellers or even uneducated antique dealers. After discovering a few fakes in my beginner's collection, I decided to research them thoroughly as to be able to recognize the real ones from the reproductions with ease.

And I will share with you my many years of findings in this blog.

Ah! And by the way: thank you Mom for your loving inspiration.

Helene Pouillon

In memoriam: Flora Pouillon, 1935-1993