How can you tell an etching is authentic?

If I post an entry every Monday to Friday, I’ve got to come up with over 250 posts per year, so I need ideas.  Please suggest some to me. This one comes from my daughter, Nicole. She asked me to answer questions that are commonly asked of me at shows. I was asked this question on Sunday at the Redondo Beach Antiques Fair. “How can you tell an etching is authentic?”

Louis Icart pulling a proof of Joy of Life from the etching press

Louis Icart pulling a proof of Joy of Life from the etching press

First you have to understand the process of producing an etching. The artist does his work on a copper plate, so the “original” is a copper plate and that’s rarely ever for sale. To produce the image, first the plate is hand-inked. Then the paper is laid down on top and the two pass together through the etching press, under tremendous pressure. The pressure transfers the image to the paper. Since the copper plate has thickness, it “dents” the paper around the edge of the image. This “dent” is called a plate impression. You can see it and feel it around the edge of the plate. So #1. A real etching has a plate impression.

Since the process is not photographic and there is no printing press, there are no dots in the image. If you use a magnifying glass to look at a photograph in a newspaper, you can see the entire image is made up of dots. Use a magnifying glass with an original etching and there are no dots. So #2. An authentic etching does not have any dots in the image.

After the edition is printed by the master printer, it is given back to the artist to hand-sign each one. Prints or other fakes have copies of the signature. So #3. Authentic etchings are hand-signed by the artist, usually in pencil.

In the case of Louis Icart, a raised seal called a blindstamp, was created in mid-1926, and is usually found in the lower left corner, just below the image. Most Icart images produced after this time have the blindstamp, but don’t use this information as a crutch. There are some fake etchings that have fake blindstamps. And conversely, there are many authentic Icart etchings that do not have a blindstamp. Supposedly the etchings without blindstamps were not for export from France, but personally I’ve found too many instances where this rule doesn’t seem to follow.

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233 thoughts on “How can you tell an etching is authentic?

  1. I have 6 Louis Icart etchings signed in pencil. ( Shocking the Devil, The Long Shadow, Secuctive Dance, Last Laugh Bearskin Encounter and Garguntua and Pantagruel. Could you recommend anyone in the Washington DC area who could tell me the authenticity of them?
    Thanks.

  2. I am a long standing member of a Printmaking Group. I have an issue with the presentation of an original print….I believe the traditional and accepted method of matting an original print (example an etching)….is that the plate mark should be visible. The matt SHOULD NOT cover over the edges of the print. The alternative to this is ‘floating the image’ where there is no matt. But I am only interested in the protocol for a matted piece. Could you supply the name of any legitimate source that perhaps could confirm my thoughts on this subject.

  3. What would it mean to have a Rembrandt etching with the signature and date in the etching, with another signature in pencil below along with the date?
    Thank You!

  4. I’ve sold thousands of original Icart etchings over 40 years. My mats never covered the plate impressions. That is the proper way.

  5. Hello. Thank you for this information. I have an interesting ICART that I have had for years. It appears to be an itching on a plastic type of material. When held up to light it is somewhat transparent. It has the @copyright 1937 sly ny in upper left and signature in bottom right. It is of a women lounging on a fainting couch smelling flowers. I cannot find this medium documented anywhere. Do you know who put Icart on this plastic material ? Thank you in advance if you answer this .

  6. Icart never put any image on plastic. Plastic hadn’t been invented yet.

  7. I read what you wrote about how to tell if an etching is real. Having read that, I believe I have an original etching by Arthur Paunzen (Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony). Where could I find more information on how to tell if it is for sure an original? I appreciate the help!

  8. I have an etching by Luciano Shiavo. Arch of Augustus in Rimini. Original etching done by hand by the artist. 1 of 60 made. I have print 43. With certification from gallery in Italy. Is it worth anything?

  9. I’m only an expert on Louis Icart. I have no idea about Luciano Shiavo.

  10. What an interesting helpful article for a total beginner…
    Shall take my magnifying glass to the auction viewing! Aideen

  11. I have 3 etchings by an artist named F A duPeyron American. t hey are “Dells of Wisconsin” “woodland Pool” and another with no title but it is a picture with 3 rowboats on a lake with birch trees. can you tell me anything about these. thank you.

  12. I have an Icart with a remarque – does that increase the value? Also the blindstamp has written next to it “test artist” in French – what does this mean? Signed by Icart 1936 and enscribed to someone.

  13. I have a framed Icart etching, Thoroughbred Red Scarf. It is signed and has copyright and publishers notation. but I cannot see a blind stamp in lower left corner due to framing. How can I authenticate this etching?

  14. I have a framed Icart etching, Thoroughbred Red Scarf. It is signed and has copyright and publishers note. However, a bookmark is not visible in lower left hand corner. How can I determine if this etching is authentic, or easily determine if it is a copy, as I want to sell it? Thank you.

  15. I have a I cart etching and wanted to know if you could recommend anyone in Phoenix to look at to determine value?

  16. I have an Icart etching that is on parchment (vellum). It is signed and numbered. Is it authentic. Did Icart etch on parchment?

  17. I noticed the Feb 17th question by Chelle concerning a Rembrandt print with a pencil signature. Many of Rembrandts plates continued to be used by “others” after his death, leading to many posthumous prints. In addition, his etchings were copied in the 19th century via heliography and 20th century via other techniques, to make new plates, of which new impressions were pulled. In modern times several artists and museums as well have made copies of Rembrandts plates, sometimes true copies and sometimes personally inspired versions in Rembrandt’s style. If you have a Rembrandt print with his signature and date in the plate, with a pencil signature below, it will most likely be a 20th century impression of a copy plate made by the artist who signed in pencil. Hope this helps.

  18. i have a painting by louis icart SMOKE it has a in the left corner of the painting it has some letters and on the right at the bottom of the painting it has a signature.

  19. It’s the raised (embossed) stamp in the lower left-hand corner that refers to the Louis Icart Society.

  20. It’s probably not a painting, but either a print or an original etching. Original etchings have value while prints have very little value.

  21. I have 2 etchings by Giovanni Antonio Bazzi ( Sodoma) found in attic. I would like an expert to look at these and tell me the value , if they are of any value . I have no knowledge of Art or even the title of an art expert that can tell me anything about these etchings . Can anyone tell me how I can find an art expert in my area please?

  22. I have an etching (plate impression, pencil signed, as you described) of “Notre Dame, Les Quais” by F.Roux. I have found very little info about it online. I am holding it for a third party, who is considering selling it if possible. It had been framed and kept clean. Can you offer us any advice?

  23. I have an etching on copper done in 1882 by Carl Rohling in Berlin, Germany. I am not sure if it is an original or a print. I was told by a local art gallery that if the artist’s signature in the right bottom corner is reversed, it’s an original and if not reversed it’s a print. This seems just the opposite of what I would think. Can you verify this. Also, are etchings numbered on the back?

  24. I have an etching by Joseph Farqhason also signed by Sedcole the etcher.I’d like to know if it’s original. Any ideas?

  25. I have an etching by Lyman Byxbe. First glimpse at Longs Peak. At least one sold on eBay for $398. They called it a signed etching. Mine looks exactly the same. What do I look for to determine value?

  26. I have an etching/engraving of “The Courtship Of Washington” by John C McRae, 1860. The edges of the paper are quite tattered, but the image itself is in good condition, with a small amount of discoloration. I am wondering how many of these engravings were authorized by Congress in 1860, how many may still exist, and a ballpark estimate of its worth. Thank you, Jim.

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