I personally like to know a bit more about the place I’m visiting before I go on a trip. This implies researching, planning, learning a few words of the language in case of emergency etc. I might sound like one of “those” tourists to some wild adventurers out there- the one that’s sticking around in guided tours with white socks underneath sandals, a camera around his neck and a folded map sticking out of his back pocket. Au contraire, I believe that is not the proper way to meet and explore a city. The truth is somewhere in the middle (as it usually is). I usually tend to ask someone that I know in the area that I’m going to visit to give me some guidelines as to where to go and what to do. After exploring the area and familiarizing with the history of the place I tend to focus more on the people that inhabit it. The social variant is half of the travel experience. I tend to avoid places intended for tourists; going a bit out of your way (geographically) to experience the true feel of a people is for me something of a must-do. Why not go out in a pub or restaurant where you don’t have the menu in English? Or go to a café where there isn’t the slightest possibility for you to meet someone you know? It might be awkward at first but it is interesting to observe the local populace in their everyday life. Who knows, you might even chat with someone that you encounter there and gain a lifelong friend? However it turns out, it’s a learning experience. In my travels I’ve noticed that there is always a certain profile when it comes to cafés and similar places. You have the small “local one” with a random array of items that make it feel home-like. Then the classic pub with a slightly different variety of personal items, probably the owner’s, glued on the walls. The minimalist and modern one without stuff glued on the walls. Then the blandest of them all, the artsy one. Before I continue I’d like to point out that I am no expert in interior decoration but still I’m noticing that there is a pattern in the decoration of every establishment in the western world. I would like to say to the dear reader that I’m speaking from my own experience of travel across most of Europe. My point being that, wherever you go you will encounter the same variety of the stereotypical array of items. Just tell me how many times you saw the “Chat Noir” poster hanging on the walls of an artsy place?
Now, you may say that it goes with the style but then why do I keep seeing the same things over and over again? I’m not trying to give a critique of modern interior decoration I’m just trying to say that I haven’t seen that often an engraving hanging on the wall of an establishment. Don’t get me wrong, I also have nothing against posters, I just want to see some more variety of the former. The thing with prints is that you can easily find a topic to illustrate. For example, you run a caffe’ in Paris and you call it “La Seine”*, you can easily decorate it with engravings or antique photos of the river coast. You may decorate it in a more rustic way but nonetheless it would be a bit more original. The first thing that you might say is – yes that does sound like great idea but it sounds a bit expensive. Again, with some time and effort invested into finding good prices, you can make yourself a very nice collection of original prints with a budget that you yourself set. On another hand you can always ask a seller that you know to be on the lookout for such items.
Be that as it may, you might not need a very rare and expensive engraving if you are looking for something more decorative. Also, keep in mind that when it comes to decorative element of an engraving frames make half of the impression. In the most of the cases the price of an engraving is the same with and without a frame. That is if the frame is not from the period but it’s extremely rare to find 18th century frames in good condition these days. When it comes to frames, the various styles of frames allow you to make the prints adequate for almost every establishment. Rustic, pompous, modern, classic, engravings can be all of that. A bold and gold plated wooden frame with a wide passe-partout around it or just two glass surfaces pressed against each other and between them a map with original coloration. Engravings can be a great decoration for every conceivable establishment.
Now you might ask why am I pressing the matter so much, the reason is the following. A generation or two ago the knowledge of the existence of such a thing as an engraving outside a museum was common. Because people knew what they are and that they held some value but most of all, there was interest for them. Today It’s always less popular, partially because the mass production of posters contributed to the devaluation the visual art in general and partially because you have no mentions of prints in movies nor other forms of media and art. It might be a bit pretentious but I will do all that I can to bring history into the spotlight again. I will write about the mysterious world of these pieces of history in the hope that one day there will be more interest about it in this modern world. That is also one of the reasons I’ve started to write this blog, to get history a step closer to you and to anyone to whom it might concern. Even if this article may not have been what you’ve expected, less informative and a bit more personal than the usual you read here, I wanted to share my thoughts with you in the hopes that engravings will become popular once more!
Pictures from items listed in the Sigedon Books and Antiques.
* – There actually is a café with this name exists in Paris, it was purely coincidental.