Frieze of Prophets
Frieze of Prophets by John Singer Sargent, c. 1902—1905; Boston Public Library
Curtis & Cameron
Copley Print, handtinted photoreproduction printed in five parts
1989.009 a, b, c
Benjamin Franklin Curtis, Jr. (1863–ca. 1937) was a photographer and publisher specializing in fine art reproduction. His firm, Curtis & Cameron (the name Cameron being an invention to distinguish his business from others named Curtis), operated out of Boston from 1895 until Benjamin Curtis’s death. Curtis developed a photomechanical technique to faithfully reproduce works of art. The reproductions he sold as Copley Prints named after the American painter John Singleton Copley (1738–1815).
The first Copley Prints issued were from murals in the Boston Public Library. American expatriate portrait painter John Singer Sargent had been invited by architects Charles McKim and Stanford White, and sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, to join painter Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, illustrator Edwin Austin Abbey, and other artists and craftspeople in commissions for a library palace intended to inspire and elevate the people of Boston. Sargent was given for his contribution the vaulted gallery on the third floor of the building reserved for “Special Libraries,” and created his most ambitious work, “The Triumph of Religion,” which covers the skylit walls, ceilings, and lunettes. In addition to the Frieze of Prophets adorning three walls with portions of the center section built up in relief, are paintings portraying the Church, Pagan Gods, Dogma of the Redemption, the Fall of Gog and Magog, Fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary, the Handmaid of the Lord, Heaven, Hell, Israel and the Law, Israelites Oppressed, Judgement, the Messianic Era, and the Synagogue.
The Copley Prints were praised by artists, including Sargent, Abbey, and Saint-Gaudens, for their fidelity to the originals, large size, and level of detail. Printed in black and sepia some, including the Bridwell set, were also hand tinted.