Print genres:
Old Master prints

What are old master prints?

Old master prints usually refer to engravings, etchings and woodcuts created in Europe from the 15th century until the mid 1800s. Earlier woodcuts have been found in Europe but usually take the form of religious documents or textiles. Old master prints were produced by trained and highly skilled artists and draughtsman. The most accomplished master printers originated in Italy, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Florence was known as the center for Italian engraving while Nuremberg was the center for German engravers.

Some old master prints might be hand colored or contain tonal areas created through aquatint or mezzotint processes. The 15th century Florentine prints.

What artists are known for old master prints?

The a few of the most cited old master prints are by Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn and Francisco Goya, Peter Brueghl the elder, Agostino Carracci, Hendrick Goltzius, Jacques Callot, Daniel Chodowiecki, William Hogarth and William Blake.


Melencolia I, 1514, engraving by Albrecht Dürer

How can I tell if I have an old master print?

Many old masters etched or engraved their name into the original plate, meaning there is a printed signature or monogram. The print may also be signed and titled beneath the image area. Due to the age of old master prints, an authentic print will usually show signs of age, including yellowed paper or foxing (small mold spots). Like paintings, old master prints can be cleaned and restored.