What is an After Print?
One of my goals is to educate those interested in what to consider when collecting prints so I am starting an ongoing series that will focus on some of the most typical questions I encounter as a print appraiser.
Question: What is an after print?
Answer: This is one of the most common questions I receive. When looking at the cataloging of certain prints, sometimes it will be written that the print is after a certain artist. For example, the below work is by Diana Scultori after Giulio Romano. But, what does this mean?
Very simply it means that the print was engraved, lithographed, etc. by a printmaker after the design of another artist. In our example, Giulio Romano had frescoed this work in Mantua, but worked with Diana Scultori to translate the work to engraving so that his noteraity would spread throughout Europe.
This relationship was very common in the 15th-19th centuries, and to a certain extent still is today. Durer did not cut his own woodcuts, he worked with a skilled craftsman to do so. Raphael worked with Marcantonio to engrave his frescoes in the Papal Apartments. When etching was introduced as method, it mirrored that of drawing and so it was not necessary for an artist to have special training in wielding a burin or preparing a lithograph stone.
Some of the most well known "after prints" are Audubon prints. Audubon worked with the Scottish engraver Robert Havell to create the book Birds of America, and later with other lithographers for the series that followed. Many believe that if they see "after Audubon" in the cataloging of Audubon prints they are fakes, but they are not necessarily! All Audubon prints are "after prints".
The perception today is that the artist or designer is the inherent author of the work of art, but do not overlook the artistry of the engraver or printmaker. A common misconception is to think that an after print should be seen solely as a reproduction of an original. Scultori, Marcantonio, and Havell were all skilled artists in their own right, and many "after prints" and their printmakers are held in very high regard in art historical terms and in the art market.