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Prints By Le Blond
So many persons are interested in the prints executed under Baxter's license by Le Blond that some brief information concerning them is worth noting down.
Let me make it clear that there must be no confusion between the very different persons, Le Blon and Le Blond. The confusion has been made by some collectors. Le Blon was born at Frankfort in 1670, and at one time a painter in miniature, but in 1720 he carne to London and started a process for printing mezzotint plates in colour. He published a work ten years later explanatory of his process. It came out both in English and in French. Two years after that he went to Paris and there, a few years later on, he died, it is said, in 1741. He was a clever workman, a master of the mystery of colour in printing, and some of his portraits-those of George II and Louis XIV-and his landscapes are worth collecting, but do not very often come into the market.
The Le Blonds were different people altogether. There was a Jean Le Blond, born in Paris in 1635, a print seller, and he is said to have executed certain colour prints, but it is doubtful whether this statement is correct. He died in 1709. The Le Blond who worked under Baxter's license is a man of 1850 period, who printed in Baxter's manner and under his license, till about 1868, when Baxter's own plates and blocks came into his hands, and he reprinted from them. Hence there are two groups of Le Blond nineteenth century prints, those which are Le Blond's own, about thirty-two in number, mostly ovals, and those printed from Baxter's plates and blocks, and not as satisfactory. Le Blond himself executed an important picture of a Highland lake, some landscapes, called "In the North of Scotland," "Galway Peasants," "Forget-menots," "Virginia Water," "The Heather," and others, large-sized prints as a rule, although there are also some small ones; and then, after 1868, he printed what are known as Le BlondBaxters. Baxter's plates, which bore his signature in the body, had the signature erased when Le Blond printed from them, but it is not absolutely certain that this always took place. There are a few prints that bear Baxter's signature only, but are clearly the work of Le Blond, because they are colder and less brilliant in effect than they would have been if they had been Baxter's.
Then, there are many Le Blond prints that bear Le Blond's own name, and there are, unfortunately, in the market a great many Le Blond prints in which Le Blond' s own name has been cut off, in order that the print should be passed as one of those by Baxter. The cutting-off of the signature alters the prints in size, and it is generally the size that enables the expert to know whether it is a damaged Le Blond print that is before him or a genuine work by Baxter. There are even still more clever forgeries, because in some cases, where Baxter's signature is rather high up in the front, as for example in two which Mr. Lewis refers to, "The Third Day He Rose Again" and "Little Red Riding-hood"; it was impossible to remove the signature without destroying the print, and the signature was carefully coloured over by hand, so that the print might pass off as one by Baxter.
Of the two issues of one of Baxter's most beautiful prints, "The Bride," the second plate passed into the hands of Le Blond, and was issued by him with his signature. It is a plate 5" x 31". He also issued "The Exterior of the Crystal Palace," two Australian scenes, "News from Home," and "News from Australia," "The Charge of the British Troops on the Road to Windlesham," the portrait of the Prince of Wales, and one of the Princess Royal, Crown Princess of Prussia; a picture of Jenny Lind, called "The Daughter of the Regiment"; the Emperor Napoleon I, the Duke of Wellington, Napoleon III, the Empress Eugenie, "The Nativity" and other religious scenes, "The Fruit Girl of the Alps," "The Ascent of Mont Blanc," "Returning from Prayer," "The Circassian Lady at the Bath," "The Mountain Stream," "The Day before Marriage," "Summer," and various others.
In The Bazaar for January 21st, 1898, there is a catalogue of the prints that Le Blond made from Baxter plates, but this cannot be taken as absolutely authoritative, although it is a work of importance, because it is declared by some of the best collectors to include certain prints which were never issued at all. The standard work on the subject is that by Mr. C. T. C. Lewis, 1920.
Le Blond's work when he printed from Baxter's plates is not nearly so good as was Baxter's. The prints are often slightly out of register. The complexions of the faces are not pleasing in some cases; they are far too white, having hardly any carnation about them. In others they are a great deal too ruddy, almost of the colour of brick dust. In some instances the colour over the lips is practically or even entirely missing, and there is an air of an unfinished print about the result, as though the printer had been in too much of a hurry to finish all the details. The ribbons are often lacking in colour, as for example the one on the Duke of Wellington's portrait, which is of a poor, nondescript appearance. Le Blond never seems to have been able to give all" the care to the printing that Baxter himself lavished upon his plates, so that a connoisseur can generally detect, almost in a moment, a real Baxter print from a Le Blond reprint. There are some instances where the Baxter print is a rare thing, and the Le Blond can often be found; take for example the one of the Princess Royal. The Baxter print, on its original mount, is worth five or six pounds at least, the Le Blond not more than as many shillings. It is easy to detect the difference, because in the Baxter print the jewels of the pendant and ear-rings are not coloured; in the Le Blond they are, and the flesh carnations in the Le Blond are of an unpleasant red, more like the colour of brick dust.
In other cases it is not so easy to determine. When no colour was used, Le Blond was almost Baxter's equal. The Baxterotype of "It is Finished," which is taken from Vandyck's "Crucifixion," is to be found both printed by Baxter and Le Blond, and Le Blond's is practically as good as is Baxter's. In another one, called "The Saviour," it is said that Le Blond omitted to use one of the blocks, with the result that there is, to use Mr. Lewis's phrase, "a chalky look" about "the high lights," and in the well-known Baxterotype called "The Slaves," published in 1853, the Baxter print has an ivory-like exquisite surface, and is worth about four or five pounds; the Le Blond is coarser, and not worth nearly as much. I would not, however, condemn in wholesale fashion all the Le Blond prints. One called "The Cornfield" is a beautiful thing. The Ovals, too, are wonderful, notably "May Day" and "Fifth of November." "Windsor Castle" is also a fine thing, and so are "Blowing Bubbles," "Wedding Day," "The Ferry," "Snowballing," "Lake Lucerne," and "On the Water." "The Day before Marriage" is almost as well in its print by Le Blond as it is in its print by Baxter. Both were done from the same plate. "The Lovers' Letterbox" is another good Le Blond, and the two prints called "Summer" are both of them excellent examples of Le Blond's work. The original printing by Baxter of the large "Summer" has greater depth of colour and finish, and on the sign of the inn there is an inscription, but Le Blond omits the inscription. In that case, Le Blond's signature is very high up, and this is one where his name is often found coloured over, in order that the print should be passed off as a Baxter. It need not have happened in this case, because the print is a good one and rare. Both that and the small "Summer," in good condition, are worth obtaining.
Le Blond at his best was really good. His "Bride" is a beautiful piece of work, and several of his portraits are thoroughly good and attractive. At his worst he was bad, and the print of the "Nativity," which is one of Baxter's best, is in Le Blond's hands one of the worst, but some of Le Blond's earlier prints of the Royal Family are beautiful pieces of execution, and are well worth trying to obtain. It will not be easy to get them, because really fine Le Blonds are almost as rare as fine Baxters.
There are thirty of Baxter's unsigned plates from which Le Blond printed, but only three of them are really important: "The Fruit Girl of the Alps," "The Reconciliation" and "The Slaves," and in these Le Blond was nearly Baxter's equal, and the pictures are good. There are three lithographs in colour that belong to Le Blond's work: "Hollyhocks," "The Gardener's Shed" and "Lucerne," and a collector is very glad to get hold of them.
On the whole, the opinion of collectors is that Le Blond was not as conscientious a man as Baxter, but in some cases it was not his fault that the pictures were not as good as Baxter's, because he did not succeed in getting hold of all the necessary blocks.
Some prints are found with both Baxter's name and Le Blond's, Baxter's name appearing on the margin and Le Blond's on the body of the plate, and in these it was expected that the print would be mounted and the plate margin cut off. They are precious, and collectors are eager to get them: In my chapter on Baxter prints I referred to the fact that they faded, and must not be exposed to light. This precaution needs emphasis with regard to Le Blond, as his prints fade even more rapidly than do those of Baxter, and as they were originally not as good, there is more in the fact than in a Baxter print. In consequence, the collector of Le Blond's prints has to be very scrupulous, more punctilious, than the collector of Baxter's. He also has to be careful that the prints he wants are complete, that they have not been trimmed, that they are not those where the signatures have been altered, and that, if possible, they should have margins. I have found some collectors of Le Blond prints who actually prefer them to Baxter's, so interested have they become in their collection. They tell me that there are more varieties in Le Blond's than in Baxter's-a cool look about the colouring, which appeals to them more than the brilliance of Baxter prints, and that they look better when they are framed, and are not so obtrusive on the wall. Personally, this is not my opinion, but I agree that many of Le Blond's prints are delightful and I am quite sure they are worth collecting, because they are gradually becoming more and more rare. Moreover collecting tends to push the price up, and as the supply is a limited one, collectors are advised to take the matter in hand and to buy Le Blonds in view of what will certainly be a rising market.