A Certificate of Authenticity is a signed document that usually accompanies the artwork, proving the authenticity of the work and containing details about the artwork for the collector's reference.
It usually contains the following information:
a) Name of artwork; b) Medium;
c) Dimensions of artwork; d) Edition; and
e) The entity who authored and signed the certificate.
If you don't have this document, in the first instance, you could refer to the gallery where you purchased the piece or try to contact the artist directly via their website or social media contact details.
A limited number of impressions are pulled from the plates, stones, blocks or screens. When each impression is inspected, hand-signed and sequentially numbered on the actual paper by the artist, usually, in one of the lower corners of the work, the matrix is defaced or destroyed to ensure the edition stays limited.
The numbering takes the form of a fraction, with the top number indicating the identification number of the image, and the bottom number signifying the total number of impressions pulled (not including proofs), e.g. 295/780.
In early printmaking, printer's plates would wear down over time. The first prints off the printing press were the highest quality and designated "artist's proofs" and considered to be the best prints within the edition.
It is pulled at the same time as or after, the regular edition, from the same plates, blocks, stones or screens, without changes. The artist often retains them for personal use or sale.
Technology has changed since the early days, and nowadays, all prints within a run of offset lithographic prints or Giclee prints will be identical in quality. However, the tradition of having a special edition within the edition has prevailed. So the value of owning an artist's proof does not relate to quality; it relates to the importance of owning a rare portion of an edition.
Most offset lithographic, and Giclee editions include less than 20% artist's proofs. Since the art world loves rarity, and as there are fewer artist's proofs than regular prints, many collectors prefer them.
The reproduction clearly notates they are an Artist's proof. If there were 50 artist's proofs, their numbers show as 1/50 AP, etc. They tend to reach a value between 20% and 50% more than a signed and numbered print from the same edition.
PP = Printer's Proof
A printer's proof is basically the same as an artist's proof except that there are even fewer of them produced. They provide an even more exclusive opportunity for a collector to own something very unique, as they are given to the printer or publisher by the artist.
Traditionally, printer's proof edition sizes are very small - usually 20 prints or fewer, typically numbered in the same format as the artist's proof, (e.g. 1/20 PP).
Printer's proofs usually sell for the same price as the artist's proofs or perhaps slightly more.
HC = Hors Commerce
Hors Commerce prints are similar to Artist Proofs except they are only available through the artist directly. The artist receives these as a gift for allowing the publisher to print their images. "Hors Commerce" means "Outside Trade" in English. Of all the special prints, HC'sare the most valuable, since they are rarer.
d) BAT (Bon à Tirer) or Final Proof
There is only one BAT for an edition, making it the most prized print of an entire edition.
"Bon à Tirer" means "Good to Pull", literally the
"okay-to-print" proof. If the artist is not printing his own edition, the bon à tirer is the final trial proof, the one that the artist has approved, telling the printer that this is the way he wants the edition to look.
The artist draws into a copper plate with a stylus, wipes the plate with ink so that the ink lodges into the etched lines. The ink is wiped off all surfaces of the copper leaving ink in the lines. The artist places a piece of paper on top, runs it through a press which exerts pressure and the ink is transferred from the copper plate to the paper.
The artist carves away all areas of a block of wood eliminating that which she does not want printed on paper leaving proud only the shape of the desired image. Ink is rolled onto the surface, paper is placed over it and it is pulled through the press, which transfers the ink from the woodblock to the paper.
Lithography - A process invented in the late 19th century. The artist draws on a stone or metal plate with an oil based crayon. Oil and water don't mix, so the artist waters down the plate and the water does not adhere to the areas drawn on by crayon. The plate is rolled with oil based ink (in any color) and the ink adheres only to the areas drawn and is repelled by areas that are wet. Therefore, the ink only stays where the artist used the crayon. The paper is placed on top and pulled through a press where the ink is transferred to the paper.
Stencil (Silk-screen or Serigraph)
A stencil type process uses a fine mesh fabric stretched on a frame. The artist blocks out all the areas not required to have an image, with paper, glues or other materials. The screen is placed on top of a sheet of paper, then squeezes the ink through the mesh. The ink will only come through where the artist wants it. There is a different silk-screen for every colour, so the paper goes through the press many times to achieve the combination of colours required by the artist.
An artist can make a piece “unique” by taking a lithograph, serigraph or giclee and embellish it. However, there may be hundreds of these around. Sometimes the artist’s studio will add the embellishment and the artist will just sign it.
One of a Kind
Each art piece labelled “One of a Kind” means that the artist alone made the image. It is not reproduced and there will never be another piece exactly like it.
So there are two kinds of “original” art - one-of-a-kind original works of art or multiple originals. Therefore, the term original refers only to the extent of the
Original is usually construed as a unique work that the artist made - a pastel, watercolour, or oil painting. But the term also refers to multiple originals as in etchings and lithographs in which the artist drew or
painted on the plates.
Respected artists create prints as an integral part of their work. The price level for original prints is usually attractively lower than unique paintings because they are multiples and on paper.
After the image quality, consider the print price. It should reflect the size of the edition, if the signed by the artist and the print condition.
Many older, colour prints may be faded or the paper deteriorated and has foxing.
Then check the date of the print as an artist's
work can change dramatically over the years,
and often the market considers periods of an artist's career more valuable than others.
Reproduction basically is a copy. Typically, a work of art is made in one form, usually a painting or watercolour. Then, copied by hand or using photographic techniques such as prints, posters or
silk-screens. An artist who copies a unique painting by making another unique painting is also technically making a reproduction. It's just a “one-of-a kind” reproduction as opposed to a multiple reproduction.