The Acquisitions Table: The Old Violin

The Old Violin. Chromolithographic proof. Covington, Kentucky: Donaldson Art Sign Co., 1887.

513124_0001The Society has been working to build the portion of the print collection which focuses on the dissemination of fine art in the United States, adding engravings and lithographs after famous or popular American paintings. The prints were then sold to the emerging middle class from 1840 to 1890, spreading images across the country. This beautiful chromolithograph was published in Kentucky in 1887 after a trompe l’oeil painting by William Hartnett. According to the National Gallery of Art, which owns the original painting, “The public was fascinated by The Old Violin…People would reach out to touch the violin or try to grasp the envelope to determine if the objects were real or painted. Thanks to a widely distributed chromolithograph, The Old Violin would become an icon of American art.” This copy is actually a proof printing of the chromolithograph, and is unusual in that it has not been trimmed to the margin and retains the series of color bars that guided the printer. The acquisition therefore addresses both our interest in the dissemination of fine art and the Society’s focus on the history of printing processes in America.

Published by

Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

2 thoughts on “The Acquisitions Table: The Old Violin”

  1. I strongly believe that I have a Chromolithograph of The Old Violin in the original wood frame 3 7/8″. On the bottom right is “Entered according to the Act of Congress in the Year 1887 by the F. Tuchfarber Co. Publishers Cin. Oh”. I would like to find out if this is on glass or some other medium.

    1. How wonderful! We would suggest you try contacting the Old Print Shop in New York, or Philadelphia Print Shop. Alternatively, you could take the print to your local museum or university gallery and they should be able to help you determine if the print is on the glass or not. The Cincinnati printing of this piece (rather than the Kentucky, which is the one in our collections) is less common, and if your frame is original, even better. Cincinnati Art Museum has a copy of the Tuchfarber Co. in the original frame, so you might want to contact Kristen Spangenberg, the print curator there. Hope this helps!

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