Meet Fanny Mae, a 36-year old wild-captured Amazon parrot, rescued by Nancy Hall, shop owner of Victorian Rose Prints. Fanny was the “runt” of 40 caged birds, with her head, neck, and rump feathers severely plucked out by the other birds. Fanny’s favorite spot is always sitting in Nancy’s lap while she is working at the computer. Nancy was drawn to rose and flower prints at an early age because of their “curb appeal”. She was especially taken with flower prints by the French Victorian watercolorist Paul de Longpre (b. 1855, d. 1911), and eventually published a book The Life and Art of Paul de Longpre.
Cody sat down with Nancy and Fanny for an inside scoop!
How long have you had Fanny?
Nancy: I found her at a bird breeder’s home, crammed into a tiny dirty cage with all the others, obviously wild captured, poor babies. I’ve had her 36 years. I could tell she was a baby bird, so I estimate she was born in 1980. She’s probably the only one still alive today. About 2 years ago, she contracted Ecoli (fatal in parrots) at a vet where I boarded her and almost died. They get it from infected poo dust by inhaling it. Took her to Washington State University, their College of Veterinary Medicine, and they saved her. Even though it’s a 4 hour round trip, I still take her there today for all care, they are the best!
Do you remember finding your first rose print?
Nancy: My all-time favorite is the La France Roses yard long print by Paul de Longpre. It has a loose grouping of pink roses that have a characteristic silvery reverse to the re-flexed petals, and it was the first hybridized rose. Even now, after decades of collecting, it still commands a special place in my workroom. It was just a “gotta have” for me!
Where is your favorite space in a home to appreciate a rose print?
Nancy: I use the antique yard long rose prints over doorways, in the kitchen, breakfast nook areas, and over the bed. In other areas, a tall easel can sit atop a piece of furniture, showcasing the yard long print. There’s nothing like a gorgeous rose print as a favorite focal point for any collection. Yard longs also fit in those narrow areas where nothing else seems to fit, and add splashes of color. Stacking yard longs is also a grand grouping, and makes quite a statement!
Can you give us a couple tips of the rose print trade from an expert like yourself?
Nancy: Quality is everything. Spend a bit more for a print that is in VG-NF condition. If you buy prints with unsightly blemishes, your eye will always go directly to the problem area. Buying prints that are 100+ years old ensures their value escalates over time. Large format prints are more collectible, as less of them were made 100 years ago. The process of chromolithography was very time consuming and labor intensive, but that is why the antique prints have the rich color layers we are attracted to and highly prize today. Keep in mind that many of the antique rose prints were free catalog premium items, and are often discovered without a frame. Paul de Longpre once said that he favored the free newspaper supplement prints, as they brought flowers and joy into the homes of the less fortunate, allowing them to enjoy Nature’s beauties when they couldn’t afford an original painting. When prints were framed up by the poorer folks, often just a simple half inch wood frame was used. Sometimes the premium catalogs show that a cheap frame could be purchased for as little as ten cents! Don’t pass up a great print just because it needs a frame, or needs to be reframed. Re-framing can make those flowers just pop, and do remember that personal color themes vary greatly. Rule of thumb: buy prints when you see them, as they may not show up again for many years. Some prints surface only a few times in decades, they are that scarce. It’s possible that they were art proofs, and never went into full production, hence only a handful exist.
Nancy: In Victorian times, the Language of Flowers was akin to a secret language, expressing the sentiments of lovers, but yet keeping their close guarded secret hidden from others. Pink roses meant that the bearer was “An Ambassador of Love”, such a sweet sentiment indeed. Perhaps that is why pink cabbage roses prints are the most sought after color with collectors today!
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