Q I inherited a Van Gogh print several years ago. It’s in color, 16 inches wide and 20 inches high. I do know it was printed in Germany prior to 1950 by Photographische Gesellschaft in Berlin. It was framed in Tokyo in 1950, and shipped to my mother in California. The original was painted in Arles, France, in 1888. It is titled “The Seated Zouave.” I would like to know the date of the printing and how many prints were made. Does it have any value?
Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Seated Zouave,” painted in 1888, has been reproduced as a print or poster for decades. (Photo courtesy of Jane Alexiadis)
A Van Gogh’s “The Seated Zouave” was one of five portraits he did of Paul-Eugene Milliet, a French army lieutenant in the mostly Algerian Zouave regiment. In 1888, when these portraits were done, this regiment had recently returned from fighting in French Indochina. The original 32-by 25-inch oil painting from which this print was made is part of a private collection in Argentina.
Berlin’s Photographische Gesellschaft was an early and extremely successful publisher of postcards and art prints. The company, with publishing houses in Berlin, London and New York, developed a method of high-quality color reproductions using a specialized pigment and rolled paper.
The companies — known in New York as the Berlin Photographic Co. — produced annual catalogs of the hundreds of “Photogravures, Facsimile-gravures, Photographs, Barytoprints, Carbonphotographs” they produced.
These catalogs were monumental works in themselves, most having 300-plus cross-referenced pages. Besides being cataloged by artist name, the prints were classified according to subject matter, such as Religious and Allegorical, Hunting and Sporting or Landscapes and Marines. Artist biographies were included as well as information about current ownership of the originals.
Different sizes and reproduction processes were offered in the hopes that every family could make purchases within their budgets. For example, prints of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” ranged in price from $1.50 for a folio-sized sepia print to $18 for an 18-inch by 34-inch photogravure. The company promised to “prevent disappointment which so often follows the purchase of spurious and soulless reproductions.”
My favorite section of the catalog is the pages devoted to “Suggestions for Decorating the Home.” This section includes ”Subjects Suitable for a Physician’s Studio” and “A Few Words on Schoolroom Decoration” as well as ideas for the hallway, library and smoking room.
No works by Van Gogh were offered in the 1905 catalog I looked at. As far as I can tell by looking at the artist listings, no modern or impressionist artists like Cezanne, Gauguin, Manet, Monet or Seurat were represented.
I wasn’t able to find out what years Zouave was included in the catalog but even that would not give a count of how many prints were made. The Berlin Photographic Co. published from 1894 to 1948. Some of the work was printed as ordered and not kept in stock.
Today, Van Gogh’s works are in the public domain: You can order “The Seated Zouave” on a coffee mug, mouse pad or T-shirt from any of a number of poster companies.
What you have, however, is a nice piece of photography publishing history. In good condition, your Zouave might sell for as much as $200.
Jane Alexiadis is a personal property appraiser. Send questions to email@example.com.
Published at Thu, 15 Dec 2016 18:00:29 +0000