Few cities in this hemisphere can boast a gallery that sells first-rate prints by the likes of Rembrandt, Du rer, Tiepolo, Claude Lorrain and Goya. But Washington now has one, and Hom Gallery's old master print show -- its second since it began handling old master graphics two years ago -- is an art-lover's Christmas dream come true.
There are no fewer than three fine prints by Du rer: a bold, sensitive engraved portrait of his enlightened patron Friedrich the Wise; a delightful little engraving of three chubby putti, and a somber "Deposition of Christ" from the large woodcut "Passion." And there are five Rembrandt etchings, among them a rare "Rest on the Flight to Egypt," so lightly etched that it looks like a silverpoint drawing. Another Rembrandt is the most expensive ($18,000) and most beautiful print in the show: a crisp, superb impression of "The Adoration of the Shepherds, With the Lamp." No expertise is required to appreciate its tenderness and luminosity.
There are more earthly subjects as well, including Callot's well-known "Balli di Sfessania," early depictions of the commedia dell'arte; 10 "Vari Capricci" by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, and some rather heavy-handed scenes of Rome by Piranesi, much admired in some quarters.
There are also two Goya etchings from the "Disasters of War," a series that remains relatively unpopular -- and therefore inexpensive -- because of its troubling subject matter. Yet "They Do Not Know the Way," on view here, has a timeless relevance: In it, a procession of monks and nobles, all tied together, moves aimlessly through the landscape, like the blind leading the blind. It is surely as powerful an allegory of government today as it was back in 1810.
The Goyas, by the way, are among several prints that cost well under $1,000 -- a category that print expert Carolyn Bullard, who runs Hom's old master department, has sought to keep on hand to encourage beginning collectors.
Many newcomers will doubtless be encouraged by approachable prices on some masterly 17th-century works such as the lovely, round "Flight Into Egypt," with hovering putti, by Stefano della Bella; the dramatic "Resurrection" from "The Passion " series by virtuoso engraver Hendrik Goltzius, and the "Livre d'Oyseux" by Belgian etcher Albert Flamen, better known for his etchings of fish, but here represented by 11 delightful etchings of birds.
Earlier this month at a sale in London of old master prints from Chatsworth, the famed English country house, a Rembrandt etching was sold for $774,000, a new auction record for a print. Once the stepchildren of the art world, old master prints have now become an expensive and iffy business, and anyone who is not expert in the field would do well to limit any dealings to knowledgeable and trustworthy dealers. You won't make a killing, but you won't get stuck either.
Hom was a widely respected dealer of classical modern European and early 20th-century American prints long before he decided to ride the current old-master print boom, and his associate, Bullard, has traveled far and wide to gather the prints in this show. Any dealer in the world would be proud of the results.
To avoid frustration, holiday hours should be carefully noted: The gallery will be open today and next Tuesday from 11 to 5, but will be closed between Christmas and New Year's Day. The show will reopen Jan. 2 and continue through the month. Hom Gallery is at 2103 O St. NW. H.H. Leonards' Sale for Procrastinators
Procrastination pays at H.H. Leonards, one of the world's most unusual art-crafts-antiques galleries, where a "Big Procrastinators Sale" starts Christmas Eve. Discounts of 15 percent will begin at 11 p.m., escalating through the night to 30 percent between 3:30 and 4 a.m. Santas arriving in costume will get an additional 10 percent off on everything.
"Everything," in this case, takes on new meaning, and includes not only the "5,000 pieces of art" that fill Leonards' four-story Victorian house quite literally to the rafters, but thousands of other items as well. Every square inch of space is filled with you-name-it-we've-got-it offerings of paintings, framed mirrors, lithographs, gigantic teddy bears, handmade welcome mats, personalized children's feeding sets and tiny porcelain dolls dressed like people in famous paintings. Ah, yes. And solar calculators.
Each day this month Leonards has featured special discounts, and though you just missed "Susan Davis Day," which was yesterday, there are still several delicious watercolors by this favorite Washington artist, whose work will grace the Christmas-week cover of The New Yorker. There are also large color photographs of Washington by Steve Gottlieb (Kodak bought several to decorate their new offices here), paintings with an old-master look by Yugoslav artist Mersad Berber, and prints by Israeli artist Elie Abrahami.
This wild and crazy gallery-shop-household, which also includes two very serious guard dogs and H.H.'s enchanted 5-month-old baby boy, Z.Z., is "a way of life as well as a business," says Leonards, whose unique (to put it mildly) merchandising techniques have landed her on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. She also makes roughly 200 frames a week for local corporate customers and hotel chains, and recently did some interior design for American Express. If you need a lift, a gift, a frame or a redesigned kitchen or just want to check out the offbeat fringe of the gallery world between now and Christmas Day, drop in.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Today hot mulled wine and chestnuts will be served all day, and tomorrow is "Dessert Day," when "the best desserts in town will be served all day." H.H. Leonards and all of the above can be found at 2020 O St. NW. Fred Folsom's Street Scene
"I hope people will come by and warm their hands on it," says Fred Folsom of his huge new painting titled "Seventh Street, Christmas Eve," the high point of a group show now at Gallery K, 2032 P St. NW. It is a touching, noble scene of street people and neighbors warming themselves around a fire barrel near Seventh Street and Florida Avenue, not far from the Howard Theater, and was based on hundreds of photographs taken by a camera concealed in the nose of Folsom's van. The artist has just been awarded a $15,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. His painting will be on view through Jan 11. Hours are 11 to 6, Tuesdays through Saturdays.