Authentic coloring?


1800s Harper’s Woodcuts, or woodcuts prints from the magazine Harper’s Weekly, are popularly collected today. The images show nineteenth century life, including stage actors, sports, US Presidents, war, high society, nature and street life. Though originally black and white, some of the prints have been hand colored over the years. As age is important to collectors, prints that were colored in the 1800s are more valuable than those colored recently. The problem is that modern ideas lead collectors to misdate the coloring.

Due to their ideas about the old fashioned Victorian era, most people assume that vintage 1800s coloring will be subtle, soft, pallid and conservative. However, 1800s coloring was typically bright, gaudy, bold and even tacky to modern taste. As Victorian people didn’t have color televisions, motion pictures or video games, and were restricted in their travel, they liked their images of exotic places and faraway celebrities to be colored exciting. A learned forger might knowingly use historically incorrect colors, as he knows the average person today would consider authentic colors to be fake.


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