CL 234 The Holy Family

Fig 1 - To the left a George Baxter print on an embossed stamped mount and to the left (Fig 2) the alternative version of the painting by Raphael courtesy of Palazzo Pitti in Florence. Please see Baxter's original letterpress description below

This print is after a painting by Raphael which is titled “Madonna della seggiola” (Madonna with the Child and Young St. John) a version of which is held at the Palazzo Pitti in Florence (fig 2). Baxter’s version was taken from a piece of Gobelins Tapestry, at Brougham Hall, by permission of the Rt. Hon. Lord Brougham and was published circa 1849/50.

Signed on left centre on the floor, "Printed in Oil Colours by G.  Baxter, Patentee." The plate has no other lettering.

It is one of the earliest prints signed by Baxter in the body of the plate, and was used in many illustrative ways including cut circular and placed on the outside of Baxter’s 1860 Southgate & Barrett ‘retirement’ auction catalogue which states about the print "Upwards of 700,000 have been already sold, and independent of the large public demand, thousands are used yearly for the purpose of illustrating various standard works." In an advert in the Art Journal Advertiser for January 1852 Baxter states that, so only about two years after publication, "Upwards of 400,000 of this subject have been sold by the Patentee."

Courtney Lewis (CL) states that it was printed from a plate and thirteen blocks, but the 1860 catalogue says fourteen were used. The plate and colour blocks were advertised for sale in the 1860 auction catalogue but along with most of the other plates, never sold. It was included in Baxter’s ‘republication’ list of prints in 1864 but the plate was retained by his son George Baxter Jr and not sold to Vincent Brooks circa 1865. The plate itself wasn’t heard of again until it turned up in a pawn shop in either Birmingham or London in the 1890’s – click HERE for more information.

CL states that it is not often we can authoritatively say the order in which the colours were placed by the blocks on the print, but in this case we can, for we have seen Baxter's own directions as follows:

(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.  The print was then glazed and mounted.  Originally sold, "superbly mounted with rich gold border," at 1s. 6d. 

CL says that Baxter issued a letterpress description with the print which is very rare (I have never even heard of a copy) which states as follows:

"Description of the Holy Family picture, printed in Oil Colours by George Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Picture Printing, 11, Northampton Square.

This print is taken from a fine piece of old Gobelins Tapestry, at Brougham Hall, by permission of the Rt. Hon. Lord Brougham.  The history of the picture, of which it is the only extant copy, is curious.  Raphael, walking in Rome, saw a handsome girl and two children at a window.  He took out his paper and pencil, and on a wine-barrel he sketched the group.

He then finished it, and was satisfied, as well he might be, for it is one of his finest pictures; but it is cramped by the edge of the barrel, which forms its frame, and especially the Madonna's leg is in an awkward perpendicular posture - because, had it extended gracefully, the circular frame would have cut it off under the knee.  He therefore painted a larger one and without restraint.  That picture is now supposed to be lost, and there is no copy of it, except this Gobelins, which was made about a hundred years ago.  The first, a circular one, is in the Palazzo Pitti at Florence, and the finest of that collection.  It differs in almost all its details from this second one; beside the great difference of the Madonna's legs and feet being shown in this, as well as her jewelbox, the St. John's arm is complete instead of being cut off in part by the circular frame.

London, sold wholesale by George Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee, of Oil Colour Printing, 11, Northampton Square, and may be obtained of the principal book and print sellers throughout Great Britain.  Price 1s. mounted on tinted paper.  Proofs 2s. 6d., superbly mounted.  Licenses will be granted for working the patent process on application to the Patentee."


Apart from being issued on Baxter’s embossed stamp mounts it was also issued on a Red Seal mount with, what is called, “Brougham lettering" (CL 234a) (Fig 3 & 3a) where engraved, on the mount, in the bottom right is: "This Picture, taken from the Ancient Gobelins Tapestry, after Raphael, in the possession of the Right Honourable Lord Brougham at Brougham Hall, is by permission most respectfully dedicated and published, under the sanction of His Lordship, by his obliged and obedient Servant, George Baxter." 

Sometimes the word sanction is replaced with the word patronage, we do not know which came first.

Lord Brougham was much interested in its publication, and wrote to Baxter several times about it.  Baxter had known Brougham for some time. In 1843 Baxter had intended to publish a print of the 'Abolition of Slavery’. The following year Baxter attended the meeting of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and was taking subscriber’s names for that print, Lord Brougham was in the chair. In 1849 we find Lord Brougham presiding over Baxter's application to renew his patent against opposition from a number of his ex-apprentices. Lord Brougham ruled in Baxter’s favour. Was it before or after that application that Baxter commenced work to publish this print of one of Lord Brougham prize possessions?

Fig 3 - Baxter Print on a 'Red' Seal mount and below (Fig 3a) The Brougham Lettering at the bottom of that mount and described to the left -  as you can see the text (and the actual seal) are in fact all in a light brown ink. This could be the first print where Baxter used this kind of mount which, on all other examples, is printed in red ink hence why we have described this type of mount this way for the last 100 years

It was used extensively on the cover of a series of music “The Holy Family Admired Sacred Melodies, arranged by W. H. Callcott, published by Jullien & Co” (Fig 4). There were 12 music scores in the series and each one had a Baxter print on the cover. When on music there is, in gold type, under the print, in one line, "Printed by G.  Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Printing." 

Baxter's son, George Baxter Jr, also used the plate for music (as mentioned above retained the plate when he sold others to Vincent Brooks), but his are very poor productions.  The lettering then is "Printed in Oil Colours by G.  Baxter, Patentee, Birmingham." CL states that later “we find the illustration on the music title-page as a chromolithograph, but probably not by Baxter (Jr).” 

CL states that “Every collector will note how very poor some of the prints are on music; in fact, they look very often as if the plate and blocks were completely worn out; and, indeed, this was the case, for when, years after, this plate was recovered from a pawnshop, it was found to be so, and had an extra plate of steel at the back to strengthen it.” He also states “A really good print is rare, but always the Madonna's dress has a somewhat unfinished look”

Fig 4 - A Baxter print of the Holy Family on the music sheet - The Holy Family - Admired Sacred melodies


The above is what we already know and have taken from Courtney Lewis’s 1924 book The Picture Printer. Now I can give you additional information regarding the music sheets that will question if particular prints were produced by Baxter or his son, Baxter Junior. The information will refute a couple of the facts above and this could have an impact on what print collectors have, up until now, considered to be a genuine Baxter Print.

Prints we know are definitely by George Baxter - CL states that Baxter used this print on “The Holy Family Admired Sacred Melodies, arranged by W. H. Callcott, published by Jullien & Co” with, under the print "Printed by G.  Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Printing." 

I have another version of the same music sheet but the type face of the text is completely different and under the print is the different wording “Printed in Colours by Baxter Patentee” (Fig 5), wording that can be found on other Baxter music sheets.

Fig 5- A Baxter Print on a music sheet with, under the print, the different text 'Printed in Oil Colours by Baxter, Patentee. Note also the earlier spelling of Calcott before it was corrected to Callcott in later printings

Fig 6 - NE65 S68 1860 Southgate and Barrett (firm), Catalogue of the Remaining Stock of Mr. Geo. Baxter's Valuable Collection of Oil Pictures, London, Richard Barrett, [1860], letterpress with annotations and chromoxylograph, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Up until now all the Baxter prints I refer to on Stamped Mount, Brougham Mount and music sheets have a light fawn background. I then have another copy of the same music but this time published by Cramer, Beale and Chappell (Fig 7). In this instance the background is noticeably darker but it is still a fine print. Is this by Baxter? It must be as this publishing company only operated between 1847 and 1861. A music collector in Australia told me many years ago that he had a copy of this sheet with a hand written date of 1858. This music sheet (Fig 7) also has the same feature as does the examples used on the 1860 auction catalogue (Fig 6) i.e. the darker background. These examples with darker backgrounds do seem to infer that they are later issues. I feel that Baxter would have been printing these popular prints until his retirement.

Another copy also with this darker background has also come to light. Yet again it appears to be a genuine Baxter and this time is published by Robert Cocks & Co, (Fig 7) something that, as you will see presently, is a little confusing.

Something else that helps to confirm that these prints with the darker background are later examples is that on all these (and all subsequent printings) the composers name is spelt Callcott, which appears to be the correct spelling, while earlier editions, with the lighter background are misspelt Calcott.

All these examples with genuine Baxter prints would date from 1849/50 until about 1864.

Whilst researching the Baxter print The Birth of the Saviour, a copy of which adorns another Roberts Cocks & Co music sheet 'The Adoration' I discovered an advert (Fig 6a) dated June 23 1860 which advertises W H Callcott's Holy Family "illustrated in oils by Baxter" under their NEW musical publications. I believe The Adoration, also advertised, was published about 1859 which infers that Baxter's Holy Family on music sheets published by Cocks & Co dates from 1859 / 60.

Fig 6A - Right - Cocks & Co advertising 'New Musical Publications' in The Athenaeum June 23 1860

Another subsequent discover is a Cocks & Co music sheet with a Baxter print with a light background and spelling the name Callcott. There is always going to be a cross over period of light to dark backgrounds etc and this appears to be during the period of the Cocks & Co music sheets, so dating the change to circa 1859.

Fig 7 - Three examples of a George Baxter print on music sheets (from left to right) Published by Jullien, Cramer, Beale and Chappell and Cocks & Co (the later courtesy of Michael Twyman)

Prints that we know are definitely by GB Jr

CL states that all his prints are marked “Printed in Oil Colours by G Baxter, Patentee, Birmingham” I have two copies, in one example it is so marked directly under the print (Fig 8), as in his father’s versions, and on another at the foot of the page (Fig 9). Both examples are printed by chromolithography.

On page 206 of the Picture Printer CL gives details of a letter dated 28th July 1875 written by Baxter Jr from his address in Birmingham stating that “I have had to give up the method of printing practised by my late father as I found the steel plates were far too expensive for the present low price of work. I have within the last year had to adopt lithographic printing…” This letter proves that he was in Birmingham by 1875. He was made bankrupt in 1878 using a Birmingham address and we can trace him in trade directories in that city from 1879 – 1881 before he emigrated to Australia circa 1882.

Does this letter mean that he never used his father’s process after moving to Birmingham? In which case all examples marked Patentee Birmingham will be chromolithographs.

To me the important thing about these two sheets is the proof that he is very happy to still use the word patentee even though he obviously wasn’t and the patent had expired in 1854 anyway.

Another important thing to note is that on one example the actual print is still signed in the body of the print “Printed in Oil Colours by G Baxter Patentee” (Fig 8) proving that he was still using his father’s printing plate, still signed in an unaltered state, to print the original design onto the chromolithographic stones. Yet again, he obviously had no qualms about using the word patentee. The other copy I have is not signed within the print (Fig 9) so, although based on his father’s plate, it is not quite the same and apart from the signature there are also other small variances. Both examples are of very poor quality, the latter being a particularly dismal affair.

All this shows that the music sheets marked Patentee Birmingham must date from circa 1874/5 to circa 1882.

Fig  8 - Above - Chromolithograph print by George Baxter Junior using his father's plate to print onto the stone - the plate is still signed as in his father's prints and he describes himself as 'Patentee Birmingham'

Fig 9 - Below - A slightly later Chromolithographic version not directly from his father's plate (but still using it as the basis) as it is now no longer signed within the body of the print but he is still describing himself as 'Patentee Birmingham'

Prints on music sheets published between 1865 and 1874?

So we know what is definitely a Baxter and also what is definitely by Baxter Jr. The last area to discuss are music sheets, all published by Cocks & Co, where the wording seems to infer that it is a genuine Baxter print but they are of very poor quality.

Fig 10 - A selection of prints on music sheets by George Baxter Junior using his father's process and printing plate - Note they are signed on the plate, and on the actual music sheet, exactly as his father would have done. There is nothing to state that these far inferior copies are not by Baxter senior.

Anyone that knows anything about Baxter and his work knows that he would never allow prints so sub-standard as these to be issued in his name. To be fair Baxter did publish prints of Williams & Moffatt (CL 76 & CL 89A) which were inferior to other prints of virtually the same subjects but these poorer quality prints were printed, presumably, at low cost, as they were intended to be given away free to subscribers of the Patriot newspaper. Even so they are still far superior to this category of ‘Holy Family’.

Most versions are Baxter Process but the quality varies from poor to absolutely dismal (Fig 10). CL wrote that the printing plate of ‘Holy Family’ was worn, although it had been repaired when found in the late 1890’s that was 30 years later and, as we have just been discussing, it was, for many years, used by Baxter Jr.

One of the last known issues of this print by Baxter was on the Southgate and Barrett auction catalogue in 1860. They were cut circular and used as an illustration on the title page. At this stage these prints are still perfect, as they should be, the plate is not worn in the slightest.


Fig 6 - NE65 S68 1860 Southgate and Barrett (firm), Catalogue of the Remaining Stock of Mr. Geo. Baxter's Valuable Collection of Oil Pictures, London, Richard Barrett, [1860], letterpress with annotations and chromoxylograph, courtesy Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

I feel it is these Cocks & Co music sheets that CL saw and came to the wrong conclusion i.e. that it was because the printing plates were worn. These poor quality prints are not by the father but by the son, Baxter Jr!

Up until very recently I would have said that all the prints appearing on music covers published by Cocks & Co were by Baxter Jr. I mentioned above that I have now seen what appears to be a genuine Baxter on such a cover (Fig 7) so it appears both printers’ prints can be found on these covers but I have only seen one genuine Baxter on such a sheet, all others are by the son.

All the prints in this category will be signed Baxter Patentee in the body of the print and under the print on some music sheets you will find the wording "Printed by G.  Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Printing" exactly the same as found on his father’s sheets. We know from later sheets marked Baxter Birmingham that Baxter Jr didn’t have any problems wrongly describing himself as the patentee. Under the prints on some sheets is “Printed in Colours by Baxter” omitting the word patentee. Perhaps this omission was an oversight as the plate still stated same and he would use the word again on his later ‘Patentee Birmingham’ prints.

One of my bound sets of all 12 melodies states music publishers to, amongst others, Napoleon III. As he died in 1873 this book must date before then? Another similar set has the same wording but with an embossed stamp on a few of the covers showing Cocks & Co New Burlington St and the date 12/8/(18)73. Another cover in the same book is marked the Late Napoleon III and has a Cocks & Co embossed stamp, ?/8/74 another 1875. So these later ones are dated some 9 years after Baxter Seniors death.

The last sheet in the series titled “12 series” is printed by Chromolithography (Fig 11) rather than the rest by the (very bad) Baxter Process. This is not surprising as per his letter of 1875, it was about this period that he stopped using his father’s process and moved to Chromolithography. Strangely with this example the print is trimmed slightly at the foot so that only “printed in Oil colours” is visible, omitting G Baxter patentee but again, as he used this wording in his later prints, this have must have been purely an error when the print was trimmed?

So the Baxter Jr examples could date from as early as August 1868, when he found himself without employment after carrying out his last task for Vincent brooks, selling his father’s plates to Le Blond, until about 1874 for the Baxter process prints, and from then until he gave up printing and emigrated to Australia circa 1882/85 for the chromolithographic versions. The sheets specifically marked Birmingham must, according to his letter, date from 1875.

Fig 11 - A music sheet by G Baxter Jr. It is signed in the body of the plate, and under the print, exactly like his father had done but this is printed by Chromolithography

From what we have described hopefully it is now reasonably straightforward to ascertain exactly who printed what music sheets. It becomes a lot harder when you find an example removed from the music sheet as, as we have noted the majority of prints by Baxter Jr are still signed in the body of the print. To someone who is unaware of the quality of a genuine Baxter or, presumes, as CL wrongly states, (and has been re-produced widely ever since), that Baxter printed from worn plates or perhaps cannot differentiate between the printing methods then I can see that they could easily wrongly describe a print as by Baxter, the father. It proves again that you shouldn’t believe everything that is printed on or under a print. See our article on posthumous plates. 

There are other editions that appear to use Baxter’s design as the basis, as Baxter's print was copied from

the unique (Gobelins) image. We have heard about a music sheet printed by Stannard & Dixon with a date stamp of 1860 and I have another chromolithographic copy yet again published by Cocks & Co (Fig 12) where the printing appears to be late 19th century. No printers name is given but it has an embossed Cocks & Co stamp dated 1888.

Fig 12 - The Holy Family - Admired Sacred Melodies with a chromolithographic print by an unknown printer, the music sheet dated 1888

Even Charles Knight, the publisher of A Treatise on Wood Engraving in 1839 that included Baxter’s "Parsonage at Ovingham" published a version (Fig 13). In 1838 he had himself received a patent for “improvements in the process and the apparatus used in the production of coloured impressions…” he appears to have only printed a few items before concentrating on publishing or perhaps later items, like this one, weren’t credited to him as a printer? Michael Twyman informs me that Knight sold his patent to Stephen Sly in 1841.

In Knight's book “The Pictorial Gallery of Arts – Volume I -  Useful Arts” is an image that again appears very similar to Baxter’s design (and hence the Gobelins tapestry). Library Hub Discover, the online database that used to be known as Copac, dates this book as 1847, pre-dating Baxter’s print, which would be very confusing, but it also questions if there were later editions. As the book is undated, at this stage, it is impossible to tell the date of the edition where this print was used. It is larger than Baxter’s version and I would feel dates nearer the 1850’s.

Fig 13 - The Holy Family from "The Pictorial Gallery of Arts" possibly printed by Charles Knight but at least published by him

In Summary


Baxter Print issued in various states:

  • RSM, with Gold Border with Brougham Lettering

  • RSM, with Gold Border with Brougham Lettering but "patronage" replaces "sanction".

  • Stamped Mount, with Square Top.

  • Stamped Mount, with Dome Top and Gold Border.

  • Plain Mount, with Baxter's Label, 1864.

    On Music: The Holy Family Admired Sacred Melodies

    • “Arranged by W. H. Calcott, published by Jullien & Co” -  “Printed by G.  Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Printing."

    • “Arranged by W. H. Calcott, published by Jullien & Co” - “Printed in Colours by Baxter Patentee”

    • “Arranged by W. H. Callcott, Published by Cramer, Beale and Chappell” - “Printed by G.  Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Printing."

    • “Arranged by W. H. Callcott, published by Robert Cocks & Co - “Printed by G.  Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Printing." Or “Printed in Colours by Baxter”

  • Mounted, in Leather Bound Covers, as a Set of Fifteen, showing the complete process of producing this print.

  • On Title Page of Southgate and Barrett's Catalogue of G. Baxter's Sale Catalogue 1860 (cut to circle).

  • Unmounted

Baxter Junior Print issued on music:

“The Holy Family Admired Sacred Melodies arranged by W. H. Callcott, published by Robert Cocks & Co”

  • By Baxter process - “Printed by G.  Baxter, the Inventor and Patentee of Oil Colour Printing." Or “Printed in Colours by Baxter”

  • By Chromolithography with signature within the plate  -  “Printed in Colours by Baxter”

  • By Chromolithography with signature within the plate  - “Printed in Oil Colours by G Baxter Patentee, Birmingham”

  • By Chromolithography with NO signature within the plate  - “Printed in Oil Colours by G Baxter Patentee, Birmingham”

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