DR 3390 – A RARE LITHOGRAPH REDISCOVERED

2018-09-12T09:36:15+00:00

Luck was on our side when we found DR 3390; but this print was at first quite enigmatic to us until we started analysing its printing process.

Below you will find two photographs of the print in two different states and printed in two different methods. You will also see detailed photographs of the monogram.

The first one shows the print in the 2nd state as appeared in the Journal Amusant in 1865: with the text, full title, monogram h.D. and stone number (lower left) as well as the name “Gillot” at the lower right margin. (The same print was again published in 1874 in the Petit Journal Pour Rire in the 3nd state.)

The second photograph shows a print without text. There is no stone number and no “Gillot” signature, only the monogram h.D. Although the print shows minor damages and water stains, the quality is nevertheless by far superior to the Gillot version.

 

We are obviously dealing with the same print, but while the first one is a gillotage, the second one can clearly be identified as a lithograph.

The gillotage printing system developed by GILLOT is a relief process where the drawing is transferred from the lithographic stone to a metal plate. It is then etched to create a relief plate. This process made it possible to produce large quantities of prints and was thus used for illustrations in newspapers. Unfortunately the quality was by far inferior to a lithograph and is missing the smooth and expressive lines, which we appreciate so much in lithography. To know, more about Gillot and his printing technique, see our detailed information on this website.

It is important to understand Daumier’s way of working: He first drew an image directly on the lithographic stone. The stone was then collected from his study and taken to the print shop where a “trial print” on thin paper was done to test the quality. Now, the text writer added his text either directly onto the print or on a slip of paper, which was glued on at the bottom of the thin lithographic print. Several examples of this can be seen in the Daumier Register, e.g. DR 3336.

In several cases, Daumier did not write his monogram and the stone number on the lithographic stone. Occasionally, the printer, while producing the gillotage, added Daumier’s missing monogram, the stone number and his own signature (Gillot sc) to the zinc plate. This done, the “mass-production” could begin.

The rare one or two lithographic trial prints on thin paper were filed with the printer for future reference. Today, only very few examples of these extremely rare trial print lithographs still exist. Some of them are at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and at the Metropolitan Museum in New York; a few are in private collections.

After these introductory explanations, let us look again at our two photographs. While the images in both versions are identical, there are a number of slight differences to be noted:

· The lithograph shows a small difference in paper measurements compared to the gillotage. Most likely the paper – which is not thin, but rather of a yellowish-brownish wove paper quality – has been cut short at the margins.

· The gillotage shows the monogram, a stone number as well as the Gillot signature., while the lithograph shows merely Daumier’s monogram. After having taken exact measures of the two monograms we found an interesting difference:

· The monogram on the lithograph has been placed 2 millimetres below the one visible in the gillotage (see detailed photograph).

· The background behind the monogram is “lightened up” as if someone had scratched out this space on the stone before adding the monogram (see detailed photograph).

Can this print be considered an original lithograph or is it a fake? Here are our thoughts and assumptions about what might have happened:

1) Daumier, as always, drew on the stone but in this case did not add his monogram and the stone number.

2) The usual copy on thin paper was printed and the text was added. This original lithographic trial print was most likely lost over time.

3) The printer now produced the zinc plate from the stone and added the missing monogram himself, as well as the stone number and the printer’s name to the metal plate before printing the gillotage.

4) Someone in the printing shop liked the print and did his own “private” lithograph copy on wove paper.

5) In order to “add value” to it, he decided to add the Daumier monogram (see under point 1: the monogram was missing on the lithographic stone).

6) Since the stone had already been coloured with black printer’s ink for the print on thin paper, he had to wipe/scratch off the ink at the place on the stone, where he wanted to add the monogram. This would explain the lighter shade on the monogram background.

7) Nobody noticed that such a “special” copy had been made. The stone was erased and could be used again for a new drawing.

Thus this print can be considered an original lithograph in a new state (with an added monogram). We assume it is one of a total of two prints which were made of DR 3390, of which the first one on thin paper had disappeared over time. The print shown here is most likely the only original lithograph of DR3390 still in existence.

We invite your comments about this fascinating print. Please don’t hesitate to contact us in case you have any questions.