A set of progressive proofs of the Holy Family in original folder as issued by Baxter
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1) The Baxter print - The Holy Family 2) an example of a progressive pull showing the build up of colours 3) a close up showing how some of these proofs were ripped, perhaps to stop them being sold?
In ‘Baxter Print Auction Prices’ by J H Rylatt in 1934 (link 1 below) an interesting item was noted as going through the auction house of Puttick & Simpson sometime in the 1933 – 1934 ‘season’. Most probably between August 1933 and July 1934 although this is not categorically stated.
It was described as a set of progressive proofs of the Holy Family in original folder as issued by Baxter.
Progressive proofs are a series of prints of the same subject that show, one colour at a time, how the print ‘progressed’ from a plain fully detailed steel engraving to a finished fully coloured Baxter print.
The print concerned would have been Baxter’s Holy Family CL 234.
The order in which the actual colours were added to the print is rarely known BUT it is recorded for this print. After the fully engraved design is printed in monochrome the colours are added in the following order:
(1) Dark crimson lake. (2) Light do. (3) Dark flesh-tint. (4) Light do. (5) Third do. (6) Fourth do. (7) Dark blue. (8) Light brown. (9) Dark cobalt blue. (10) Light do. (11) Umber (background). (12) Light umber. (13) Yellow, completing the printing before going through the intaglio press again to give it it’s glaze.
I have seen a series of these progressives of the Holy Family before. Each print had been roughly torn half way across the print something that I had presumed was a way of stopping the unfinished prints being sold as they were produced purely for reference. If we now know that Baxter sold these in an especially prepared folder, it seems strange that he would damage them in such a crude way, especially as they are described by Rylatt as being ‘mint’. Perhaps these examples weren’t damaged?
Please see an example of one of these progressive proofs from my own collection, ripped through as described. This one appears to me, as per the list above, to have had just the first 4-5 colours added. Interesting that Baxter used four different shades to get the correct flesh tones.
The Lot sold for £14 and Rylatt says in the book that this set was purchased on behalf of the British Museum. Searching the museum’s online database they have an entry, but unfortunately without any images, noted as being acquired in 1934 which they describe as:
“Set of 13 plates of 'the Holy Family' by Baxter, 12 plates showing the colour process applied by Baxter, and the plate complete, plates numbered at bottom left corner, and with puncture (REGISTRATION) marks above and below the images to mark the position for the additional colours, plates 1-4 with various shades of red, flesh colour added on plates 5-6, shades of blue added on plates 7-10, and finally shades of brown on plates 11-12; the final plate showing also tones of yellow on the sleeve of the Virgin; the image depicting the Virgin seated on a chair, turned to the right, Christ child on her lap pressing his cheek against her; St John the Baptist in prayer in the right background; in an arch; after 'Madonna of the Chair', by Raphael. Together with 'Description of the Holy Family picture printed in oil colours by George Baxter, the inventor and patentee of oil colour printing'. Mounted in a folding cardboard and kept in a brown box.
Interesting to note that they have a 'Description of the Holy Family…’ which is possibly where the information describing the order in which the colours were added was ascertained? I have never seen a copy of this descriptive text.
If any one does look at the museum entry (Link 2 below) you will notice that this, and in fact all their copies of the Baxter prints of the Holy Family they hold are noted as printed by Thomas Packer who appears to have been a printer of a number of other coloured music sheets. His connection with this print is incorrect.
Full details on Baxter’s print ‘The Holy Family’ can be found at (Link 3 below)
The Centenary Baxter Book published in 1936 by Rylatt and his co-author H G Clarke, two years after Rylatt had reported this item in his auction guide, described the Holy Family as being able to be found “Mounted, in Leather Bound Covers, as a Set of Fifteen, showing the complete process of producing this print” Was this the set that Rylatt had purchased for the British Museum, quoted by them as only 13 prints or, as according to the colour order list above, perhaps there were 13 colours and also the monochrome initial steel engraving and the finished print?