How to tell if my antique fashion print is genuine

Is my fashion print antique or not?

For people that collect old prints, it is important to know if the print is genuine or not. A genuine print is usually far more valuable than a reproduction, especially when it is a rare antique print. So how can you tell if your fashion print is the real stuff? Even better, how can you prevent yourself from purchasing a fake fashion print? Here are some simple guidelines to help you determine if your print is antique or a reproduction. In this article we will focus on plates produced on the old fashion way, via the so called printing technique of engraving. A technique where a copper, steel or zinc is plate is carved out and ink is rubbed into the carved areas and removed from the smooth surface of the plate. The copper or steel plates are then run through a press and the paper is pushed into the carved lines. With a very good magnifier its is easy to determent the difference between a wood- and steel engraving.

Antique french print close up. Earrings are colored in with goldpaint 1835

Important French leading magazines like La mode Illustree, Journal des Dames et des Modes, Le Petit Courrier des Dames and the likes considered their fashion plate collectibles an art form and no expense was was spared to create them. Quality paper and ink was used, leading artists and designers where brought in to draw up the designs, master engravers did the steel carving and the prints were colored in by art students or artist that needed money.  The fashion plates soon became a huge success. Because of the high quality and beauty of the prints, they are still very much collected around the world. Here are the tips that help you determine the authenticity of your antique fashion print.

If it’s too white, something  is not right. 

Very old paper doesn’t look snow white.  Over the years, micro organisms have their way with the paper causing the pH value of the paper to increase. The residue that organisms leave behind, often leave spots and marks in the paper. Next to these organisms, sun damage and years of accumulated smoke also can cause yellowing and browning of the print. Some sellers resort to harsh bleaching agents to whiten the prints. This is very harmful in the long run. I would recommend not buying those.

Generally speaking, discoloration, yellowing and browning of the paper is a sign of old age, it comes with, and is part of its authenticity.

Using close-ups to determent antique prints

The use of simple magnifiers to authenticate antique prints

When you use a magnifier to look at an antique print, you can determent with what kind of printing technique you are dealing. At the end of this article you can find some in depth resources that help you understand all printing techniques used. In the case of antique fashion prints, you should look for regular dotted, or beehive shaped patterns that indicate you are dealing with a common impostor! A regular steel engraved antique fashion print has many details that you can’t even see to well with the naked eye.

A steel engraved fashion print should look something like the photo on the right. So invest in some magnifiers. Its worth the money and they are not that pricey. When buying antique prints online, make sure you ask for close-ups or only buy from sellers that provide them with the description. When browsing local markets, keep a small pocket magnifier with you to check out the print on the spot.

“Good” details  in antique fashion prints you should look for with a magnifier are:

  • Use of gold paint used for jewelry.
  • Hand applied paint that goes clearly beyond the lines of the print.
  • Infilled make-up colors and blush. Irregular dots and lines applied by hand.
  • Use of areas waxed with Arabian gum.

“Bad” details you should look for are:

  • Regular, apparently generated dots in RGB
  • Bee hive shaped patterns in CMYK
  • Colors that do not coat the whole surface of a place, colors that overlap.

 Look for plate marks, it sounds bad but it is a good thing!

A plate mark imprint was left by the pressure of the inked plate, pressing in the paper.

Steel engravings are made by applying ink to a steel plate and pressing it onto the paper. These plates left marks around the printed area, usually shaped in a rounded rectangle around the illustrated area. Look for these imprints of pressure around the image. It is a sign of the prints authenticity!

The type of paper is an indication of age.

Watermark visible when keeping the print against a light source.

Before the 19th century, laid paper was used. Laid paper has a very different production procedure then modern, woven paper and also different composition. After the 19th century they used a more modern and cheaper way to produce paper. This modern paper was very high in wood pulp content which made this paper very prone to yellowing. However, many French antique fashion prints continued to be printed on laid paper because of the quality the publishers wanted to deliver with their magazines. These prints on laid paper often have a watermark as well as the typical horizontal stripes, that seem to be embedded in the paper. (a trade of laid paper)

I think its safe to say that antique fashion prints printed on laid paper, are usually more valuable then those that are not.

In general:

  • Prints on laid paper are often older and more valuable.
  • Look for watermarks in the paper by holding the print against the light
  • Look for the type of paper used, do you see horizontal stripes in the paper? Than it is laid paper.
  • Very modern paper often feels very smooth compared to old fashion types of paper that has high contents of viberous wood pulp.


Some examples of old and new printing techniques I have come across:

These are some of the points I have come across in collecting antique fashion prints. I hope it helps you collecting the prints you are looking for!

If you want more in depth information about identifying old and antique prints, check out these two great resources:

You can find the antique fashion prints that are up for sale in my store here: My Etsy shop, section: engravings







Photographic portrait

Photographic pastel, ca 1880

Photographic pastel crayon portrait.

Photographic pastel, ca 1880
Enter a caption

A lovely and big framed oil crayon portrait of a young boy.  He is dressed up in a cute striped play suit. This portrait is from around 1900, maybe sooner. Pastel oil crayon was a new invention in the late 19th century. Oil crayon portraits where a whole new genre in the art world and popular until the 1920’s. The artist name and date is not found on the artwork. The pastel was produced in Belgium. There are some references, but unfortunately unreadable. I kept record, perhaps the next owner can make sense of it. The pastel was removed from the old matting, the glass was cleaned and a big foxing spot was retouched. The paper was dry cleaned and some small repairs were done on the frame. This big framed artwork measures 58 x 48 cm. The frame and glass are original.

Price: 90 euro exclusive of shipping costs.

If you are interested in purchasing this work or if you have additional questions, please use the form below.

A pig and a poem by R. Dahl

The Pig , by Roald Dahl.

Etching by C Dake. “After the meal”, 1886.


Poem by Roald Dahl

In England once there lived a big
And wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn’t read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn’t puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.
What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found.
Till suddenly one wondrous night.
All in a flash he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, ‘By gum, I’ve got the answer! ‘
‘They want my bacon slice by slice
‘To sell at a tremendous price!
‘They want my tender juicy chops
‘To put in all the butcher’s shops!
‘They want my pork to make a roast
‘And that’s the part’ll cost the most!
‘They want my sausages in strings!
‘They even want my chitterlings!
‘The butcher’s shop! The carving knife!
‘That is the reason for my life! ‘
Such thoughts as these are not designed
To give a pig great piece of mind.
Next morning, in comes Farmer Bland,
A pail of pigswill in his hand,
And piggy with a mighty roar,
Bashes the farmer to the floor…
Now comes the rather grisly bit
So let’s not make too much of it,
Except that you must understand
That Piggy did eat Farmer Bland,
He ate him up from head to toe,
Chewing the pieces nice and slow.
It took an hour to reach the feet,
Because there was so much to eat,
And when he finished, Pig, of course,
Felt absolutely no remorse.
Slowly he scratched his brainy head
And with a little smile he said,
‘I had a fairly powerful hunch
‘That he might have me for his lunch.
‘And so, because I feared the worst,
‘I thought I’d better eat him first.’

A poem, a mother, Haverman and Claude McKay

My Mother, a poem by Claude McKay (1922)

Hendrik Haverman, printing company “S. Lankhout”. This lithograph was an added print of an 1896 edition of “De Kroniek”
lithograph by Hendrik Haverman representing his wife and daughter, 1896.

Reg wished me to go with him to the field,
I paused because I did not want to go;
But in her quiet way she made me yield
Reluctantly, for she was breathing low.
Her hand she slowly lifted from her lap
And, smiling sadly in the old sweet way,
She pointed to the nail where hung my cap.
Her eyes said: I shall last another day.
But scarcely had we reached the distant place,
When o’er the hills we heard a faint bell ringing;
A boy came running up with frightened face;
We knew the fatal news that he was bringing.
I heard him listlessly, without a moan,
Although the only one I loved was gone.

The dawn departs, the morning is begun,
The trades come whispering from off the seas,
The fields of corn are golden in the sun,
The dark-brown tassels fluttering in the breeze;
The bell is sounding and the children pass,
Frog-leaping, skipping, shouting, laughing shrill,
Down the red road, over the pasture-grass,
Up to the school-house crumbling on the hill.
The older folk are at their peaceful toil,
Some pulling up the weeds, some plucking corn,
And others breaking up the sun-baked soil.
Float, faintly-scented breeze, at early morn
Over the earth where mortals sow and reap—
Beneath its breast my mother lies asleep.

About the art & poem: The lithograph, by Hendrik Haverman, 1896.

 The poem: education

A letter from Jan Mankes

Jan Mankes 1889-1920

A letter Jan Mankes wrote, while he was ill with tuberculosis.  The letter was addressed to a female friend and art collector. A few months later he died, thirty years of age.

Jan Mankes, self portrait with owl

“An August day can be so dusty and sobering”. “On these days you just want to disappear, escape all this misery imposing on you”. However you know: “the serene evening will come and the Lapwing, (a bird) will be heard over the lowlands”. When taking a walk in the early morning dew, looking at the backs of the cows, and the dampening trees, you know that just the thought of all these things justifies everything on such a fierce August day.  “You’re not to groan and curse”, “and you do not try to change it and improve it, you just seek out a quiet place somewhere on a deserted piece of land, and wait while knowing that it will come”.  Nature has nothing to hide, but gives everything, and those August days, they also have their place in our mental landscape. But the winterstorm nights, they will come, and so will the lovely mornings and evenings in may,  those are all intimacy.

Only that depth we get while living life through these extremes, together,  can make true friendships happen.

Will fate allow us to go through all these stages?


The Dutch version of this letter is found on the website:

More art of Jan Mankes: The Darkness of Jan Mankes

Restoring J.B. Max

Removing cardboard from paper.

I love to collect historical etches and gravures made near or in Arnhem, the town where I live. Yesterday, I received a wonderful small etching by an artist I have not yet deciphered. On it, a representation of “the Sabelspoort”, a medieval gate in the old historical city wall in Arnhem. The city wall was used to protect against all kinds of invasions and plunderers and had next to its many gates, four defensive towers, the Janspoort, the Velperpoort, the Rijnpoort and the Sabelspoort. Unfortunately the Sabelspoort is the only one of the gates that is still standing today. The other gates where long gone before the second world war and strangely enough the tower survived, standing fiercely while everything around it was shot to bits in the heavy fighting that took place during the war. Nowadays, the Sabelspoort is an official Dutch monument and has significant meaning and worth for Dutch architecture and Dutch history.  So a nice asset to my modest collection!

J.B Max, ArnhemThe paper had some foxing and yellowing going on and when I removed the etch from the frame I noticed a sticker from the art dealer that framed this work, about 116 years ago. Notice the cool four digit phone number or “telephoon” as they would say back then. The framer and art dealer was J.B. Max who resided at 83, Steenstraat in Arnhem, about 1 mile away from where I live. 

On a closer inspection I noticed that the etch was glued to a cardboard panel. This is always a big setback and when framed, you never know what to expect until the frame comes of. So in this case, a lot of unwanted cardboard and heaps of work! Its a Buddhist exercise gone crazy to maintain the concentration and determination needed to peal off the cardboard layer by layer. However there is really no choice, the cardboard has to come off to be able to stop further yellowing and foxing of the antique paper. The board is acidic and will propagate the Oh no, the Sabelspoort is glued on cardboardexisting problems in the paper.

I suppose it is a dirty job but someone has to do it! Before peeling, I first tested a few centimeters in the corners. For this job I used a Swann Norton surgical blade and tweezers. It turned out that the peeling was going amazingly well. the cardboard was very rich in wood fiber and therefore flaking easily, which made it easy to peel of the layers. The glue the framer used was probably something natural and starch based. There seemed to be no need for the use of solvents and liquids at this point, so I went for this plan:

  1. Removing the acidic backing board form the artwork with a Swann Norton surgical knife
  2. Sanding and scraping the paper to leave a smooth surface.
  3. Dry cleaning with rubbing gum on the front side of the etching
  4. Wet cleaning, removing acid with distilled water with added calcium hydroxide.
  5. Drying and pressing
  6. Mounting the etch on a piece of Kozo paper and with that creating a new and smooth backing.

It was time to begin peeling, chip by chip! The top layer of the etch paper was merged with the board and the glue that was used and came of spontaneously while removing the cardboard. Thespeeling awaye few millimeters were so rigid that they came off with the scalpel knife without too much effort, leaving a relatively clean surface without too much cardboard leftover residue. Because the job was tough on the paper thin blades, I used to two of them in the whole scraping and cutting process. One of them just broke in two pieces all together.

Next to blades, it cost me one big cut in my thumb because the Swann Nortons where pretty blunt at some point. And after about four hours of peeling away in intense concentration, the finish line came into sight while I was still attached to my fingers and the medieval Sabelspoort still had its towers.  

When the peeling was done, I started removing all little specs of cardboard with a scraper. After thisrough edges I was left with a very rough edged paper that didn’t look too good. 

The front was left unaltered by the scraping and peeling work. I trimmed of the loose bits with scissors and started lightly sanding the paper.the work after the sanding process

After the sanding, the paper surface was much more smooth and it was time to finish up and get ready for the next steps Bestand_008 (3)of this cleaning up which I will post as soon as possible.

The end result looked pretty good. No changes where made to the visible side of the etching and the back can be used as is or can be mounted to a piece of Kozo paper which is acid free mulberry paper, almost invisible to the naked eye.

Cleaning of old paper

Cleaning of paper

Paper art Hygiene, dry cleaning

Dry cleaning is the dry removal of dirt and micro-organisms from the artwork with the help of dry sponges, brushes and granulated rubbing gum. Bigger particles, like insect specks and rust spots, can be scraped away with a sharp tool.Noord Hollandse chais 2 At my workshop I use dry cleaning in two ways: with a clean brush and granulated gum, going over the entire artwork in a circular motion and the other way is by scraping away superficial spots with a knife and then vacuuming the residue so it gets removed right away. A large part of the dust and micro-organism particles are removed this way, leaving a cleaner and more freshly looking artwork. 

In the process of conserving and restoring art, dry cleaning is an important step because over time, the dirt and dust particles will get embedded deeper into the fiber of the paper, where these particles merge with the paper over time, causing staining, yellowing and browning and creating a fertile breading ground for  microorganisms. In time, the paper will become brittle and eventually dissolve all togDirt behind the backing board.ether because of these microorganisms. The traces of the fungi’ s waste product can actually be seen under a microscope in the form of strings running through the paper. Next to the cleaning of the paper, the frame and  glass must be cleaned thoroughly, preferable killing all the microorganisms so nothing gets transferred back to the sanitized paper. Dry cleaning is also an important step before aqueous cleaning of the work. Most of the bigger dirt particles are removed before the paper is submerged in a bath. We don’t want spores and dirt being released in the bath where they can contaminate the whole paper!

If possible, use a new piece of glass. If you want to reuse the old one make sure all the microorganisms are killed. I would recommend using bleach to kill microorganisms, preferably wearing gloves to make sure no fingerprints are transferred  onto the paper. The frame should also be cleaned with light soap and water. After the paper is dry cleaned it can be framed again. If necessary the artwork can be soaked in liquid to remove acidic build up.

Aqueous cleaning

Aqueous cleaning, acidic buildup is leaving the artwork.

This is used when the paper is in good overall shape but suffers from foxing or extreme yellowing. Acidic buildup in the paper caused by pollution,  (people used to smoke a lot) or backing on acidic cardboard and acidic matting. Also acid in the used inks and in the artworks own paper can cause foxing and yellowing. Sometimes, tape used to matte the artwork also causes ugly yellow stripes where the glue is merged with the paper. This glue residue feels slippery when the artwork is wet. If possible, remove this sticky layer, rubbing gently, when the paper is in the bath. 

To preserve the artwork, aqueous cleaning can improve the artwork and preserve it for future generations. Acidic buildup will rinse out of the paper where it will soak for some time in distilled water with added calcium-hydroxide. A test on the inks is done to make sure it can handle liquid cleaning. Usually different colors and inks will react differently when coming in touch with water so these are tested with a q-tip and water + water and ethanol before taking the plunge. When its clear the colors won’t start to run, the artwork is placed on a piece of spun polyester, where I usually spray the artwork with a ethanol/water solution. This is to protect the fibers of the paper. The water/ethanol solution penetrates the fibers much faster then ordinary water or distilled water, so the shock as is lessened. The shrinking and expanding of the fibers goes much faster causing less damage. Wetting old and antique paper is always demanding on the paper.  However, if you want to preserve the art piece as best as you can, its often wise to do so. Most of the time the process of foxing comes to a halt.


About Jo Hulsteins Fine prints

About the store

Jo Hulstein fine prints“Jo Hulstein fine prints” is an online antique store located in Arnhem, the Netherlands. The shop evolved out of my interest in- and passion for antique art. I have been collecting antiques for many years and started out with antique furniture and historical items and later on began collecting antique art, mainly works on paper and canvas like etches, gravures, pastel drawings, lithographs and paintings.

After many years of creative and social education I started working as a mental health worker and advisor. My latest study was Sociology at the university of Nijmegen.  My personal antique interests at the moment are woodcuts from the 1920’s and 1930’s  themes that revolve around children, flowers and animals. Next to the Jo Hulstein fine prints shop, I am also a proud mom and in my spare time I love to collect and search for fossils and stones, metal detecting and enjoy long hikes in the fantastic national park de Hoge Veluwe with its fantastic Kruller Muller museum in its center..

Feel free to browse or contact me if you want information about the artworks on this website!



Jolanda Jo Hulstein