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Notes on the prints

Most come from the collection of John Charrington, Honorary Keeper of Prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum from 1909 until his death in 1939. His collection of over 4,000 portrait prints came in 1933, along with a generous donation to build a Print Gallery (Gallery 16) and an office in which to house Fitzwilliam's print albums. Charrington was an assiduous collector of portrait prints, interested in a wide range of subjects from sixteenth century Dutch engravings to contemporary British lithographs. Each print is dry stamped with his collection mark, 'JC' encircled [Lugt no. 572]. Like other collectors of Van Dyck's etchings in the early decades of the 1900s, Charrington acquired the etchings one by one, waiting for good examples to come on the market. Charrington bought a number of the etchings from the London art dealers Colnaghi in 1904 and later in 1911. He bought two more from them in 1935 and 1938, a short time before his death in February 1939. Three were bought directly from auctions at Sotheby's: the 1923 sale of Robert Edmond Graves (1835-1922), ex-employee of the British Museum; and in 1930 at the sale of the library of Hornby Castle, Yorkshire, property of the John Osborne, 11th Duke of Leeds (1901-1963). Charrington was eager to acquire one example of a good early state, but in many instances he also wanted an example of a later state, for which he would pay considerably. In Arthur M. Hind's essay on Van Dyck's etchings, he gives advice to collectors on what to look out for and what they should expect to spend: "Early proof states before lettering or with lettering in MS," he says "from £60 to several hundreds of pounds: impressions with G.H. from £5 to £20; early impressions after G.H. about £2 or £3" (Print Collector's Quarterly, 5 (1915) p.20). Interestingly, these seem to correspond to the prices Charrington paid: of the earliest states: £500 (for the self portrait; £330 (Snyders), £220 (Sustermans) and £200 (Pieter Brueghel). These were considerable sums for the period and are some of the highest prices Charrington paid for any of the prints in his collection. For "impressions with G.H." i.e. those published posthumously by Gillis Hendricx, Charrington paid £5 (Jan Brueghel) and £4 (Sustermans); for the later states Charrington acquired them for as little as £1 (Jan Brueghel)

The founder of the Museum, Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam (1745-1816), acquired only one loose etching of Jan Brueghel, which is pasted into the beginning of the album 23.I.8. Fitzwilliam also had a Verdussen edition of the Iconography, which he acquired in 1765 at the age of twenty-one. Another copy of the same edition came to the Museum from the collection of Thomas Kerrich (1748-1828) through the bequest of his son Richard Edward Kerrich in 1873.

One curious acquisition is the album donated by T.E. Crawhall, which is entitled Van Dyck Etchings and their states, by an Amateur. The album contains twenty-one photogravures of Van Dyck's etchings, but a note in the front of the album explains that it is a unique, deluxe edition, being the only one printed on drawing paper and furnished with twenty-seven impressions of the etchings and 'doubtful' attributions.

Of the other etchings featured here that do not come from the collections of Charrington, Fitzwilliam or Crawhall, one other was bought for the museum by Louis Clarke (director throughout 1937-46), who liked to fill "gaps" in Charrington's portrait collection. Clarke also donated a chalk drawing of Lucas Vorsterman (PD.30-1961). The most recent of the etchings to enter the Museum's collection came in the Reitlinger bequest of 1950, (received 1991).