Is this thrift store print just a remake?
November 21, 2018 7:26 AM   Subscribe

I bought a framed Escher drawing a few weeks ago at a thrift store for $5 as a decoration for my hallway. After taking another look at it over the weekend, I'm sort of curious if it has any monetary value and its origins. What should I do next and can you confirm my cynicism that it's just worth the paper it was printing on?

I looked a bit on google links and felt really overwhelmed and unable to determine whether lithographs are worth anything.

I don't have any knowledge of where it came from, but the bottom of the frame statesthe bottom of the frame states "the original lithograph loaned by Vorpal Galleries, San Francisco and Chicago".
The plastic (or is it glass?) is worn and has a very matted finish so I can't tell without opening it up whether it's just a reprint being sold at the official Escher store. Should I even take this to a local art dealer? Would they charge me with to get a valuation of it? Am I greedy fool for even thinking of doing this?

Even if it's just a copy, I'll keep it hanged in my hallway.
posted by fizzix to Media & Arts (4 answers total)
I work for an art restoration studio that specialized in works on paper (IANYAppraiser/Art Dealer). From the images you've shared it's hard to tell if this is an original lithograph (a kind of print made using a carved stone or other surface) or a digital print or offset lithograph meant to mimic the original, like the one in the Escher store. My interpretation of the label is that the original print was loaned by Vorpal Galleries, not that this is the original print, although the wording is vague.

You can always tell more about a print when it's out of the frame, so if you're willing to remove it you might be able to determine more. Is there an edition number? Can you tell through the glazing if the signature is in pencil or is printed? If you look a the print/signature with a magnifying glass, do you see pixelation? This might suggest it's a digital print. Here is a good explanation of how to determine if a print is a hand-drawn lithograph or reprint.

I can't speak to the value of the piece if it's an original print, or what an appraiser/dealer would charge to evaluate it. But anyone with a working knowledge of printmaking should be able to tell you if it's a lithograph or a digital print with just a magnifying glass.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 7:59 AM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

The wording of the label seems to imply that the Vorpal Galleries loaned the original, from which copies were made. At least that's how I read it.

The plastic (or is it glass?) is worn and has a very matted finish...

It's probably plastic. It was a thing back in the 80s-90s to use matte-surface plastic in order to kill glare. It also had the effect of somewhat deadening colors and tones, and ever-ever-so-slightly blurring the image behind it.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:57 AM on November 21, 2018

Former printmaker here. "Lithograph" can mean a lot of things, from something that was hand drawn on a literal stone (valuable) to offset printing which is a mass commercial process (not valuable at all). The hand made type of lithography usually will be editioned (numbered, in pencil), signed, and sometimes has a stamp from the printer. Those marks are what authenticate it - the artist & printer both approved it and it's limited edition nature was recorded. If you take it out of the frame you might see some of this other information.

I can't tell from your photo but I could if I were looking at it in real life.

Also I have to correct rabbitbookworm, lithographs aren't carved. Part of what makes them more difficult than other types of prints identify - there are no plate marks or impressions. Traditional stone lithography is done by drawing with oily mediums on the stone - these marks are then fixed into the surface. You print by wetting the stone with a sponge - rolling ink over the stone will stick to the image and not the wet parts.
posted by bradbane at 9:51 AM on November 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

I removed it from the frame yesterday and learned it was printed on the blank side of a paper calendar. ;)
posted by fizzix at 10:03 AM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

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