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Digital Subscriptions > Antiques Trade Gazette > 2290 > Eminence on a budget

Eminence on a budget

With prices lagging behind modern limited editions, Old Master prints may be the market’s best-kept secret


Old Master prints represent one of the last dusty corners of the art market where it is still possible to find and own an original Renaissance or Baroque work of art for under £1000.

Spend £5000 or more and a household name – Dürer, Rembrandt or Canaletto – could be within reach. Christie’s international print specialist Tim Schmelcher believes “no other field offers access to greatness for less money”.

The catch-all term ‘Old Master prints’ covers five centuries of art history.

Neatly bookended by simple medieval woodcuts and the masterful drypoints of Goya, the collecting sphere encompasses the original etchings, engravings and woodcuts made by Western artists – either by their own hand or with the aid of professional printmakers – from the 14th to the early 19th centuries.

These prints, typically distinguished from those removed from books and atlases, are not mere reproductions. As Vasari attests, major artists from Mantegna to Titian personally engaged in printmaking as both a source of income and as an artistic medium in its own right.


Prints are a chance to view an artist stripped bare and perhaps share in a moment of artistic exploration. But being a print collector can require a little imagination.

Some prints, such as the exquisite but tiny engravings of the ‘Little Master’ Hans Sebald Beham (1500-50), pack their punch in a small package while others require a level of connoisseurship before they give full reward. As fashions change there are fewer sales and specialist dealers to educate and nurture an audience.

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About Antiques Trade Gazette

Antiques Trade Gazette is the essential publication for everyone with a serious interest in art, antiques and collectables. Every week it is packed with up-to-the-minute news on the market, with individual items beautifully illustrated throughout. Since 1971 it has been the most reliable source of information on what is really happening at auctions in the UK and around the world. Each issue is filled with auction advertisements and detailed auction reports written by expert journalists. The Dealer’s Diary section keeps readers constantly updated on what is happening at the fairs and markets and in the galleries and shops. Market professionals and serious collectors throughout the world rely on ATG to keep them informed on developments and issues which shape the art market. It is here that they learn about the prices achieved at auction in every area - from antiquities to pop memorabilia, from impressionist paintings to Chinese art. With 500 or more art objects pictured, every issue is a treat to the eye and a visual education. Whatever the topic Antiques Trade Gazette is well-informed, up-to-date and entertaining.

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