John Jānis Šteins

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Timothy Cole

mona_lisaTimothy Cole is another master wood engraver whose technical proficiency amazes me. He spent his entire career in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s interpreting the work of master painters like Constable and Hogarth. I happen to have in my possession his engraving of Mona Lisa, signed by him in pencil. It’s printed on a delicate kind of Japanese tissue and seems very fragile but the impression is perfect and allows for first hand scrutiny on how he made his cuts. Check out the detail on Mona Lisa’s face by clicking on the image to enlarge. And here’s a snippet of a letter he wrote to someone saying that he is trying his second attempt at engraving this image and will do a third if it doesn’t turn out.
What kept his talent in demand by magazine publishers of the day was the fact that photo reproduction technology hadn’t been tuned up enough at that time. When it finally got sorted out, Cole and other engravers like him were out of a job because they were in essence mechanical reproduction artists interpreting the paintings and illustrations of other artists with shades of gray and texture on the engraving block for use in publications.

Mona Lisa

The actual print is 6.25 inches (16 cm) wide and 9.125 (23 cm) high. Timothy Cole certainly stands out as a master engraver with a gift for interpreting the work of master painters within the humble context of wood engraving.

I read somewhere that he was also an avid nudist. Hope he wasn’t running around the colony with sharpened gravers pointing in the wrong direction.

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  1. hollants November 24, 2009

    whats the value of an original woodblock print from timothy cole
    i will send you pictures
    hollants patrick

  2. Bernadine Fox May 27, 2011

    Hi John,

    I am a great great (great?) niece of Timothy Cole and a visual artist myself. I ran across your blog post about him and just wanted to thank you for giving him such a great write up. I don’t have any of his originals at this point. But, I do collect images of his work from a variety of sources. I did not know he did the Mona Lisa too. Would you be so kind as to send me a digital image of it? Thank you,


  3. John Steins June 4, 2011 — Post author

    Hi Bernadine,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sorry for the late reply. How cool that you are related to Timothy Cole! I was so lucky to acquire the Mona Lisa image which I will send to you.


  4. Rodrigo Siqueira August 30, 2011

    Hello John,

    I would love to have the higher resolution of the engraved Mona Lisa by Timothy Cole.
    I was lucky to acquire an engraved version by Sanchez Toda, the Spanish engraver famous for creating many postal stamps and bank notes in Spain, long ago.
    The scan of his Mona Lisa is in my site:

    I am collector of engraved stamps.

    Rodrigo Siqueira

  5. Jason Mushung September 2, 2011

    I have my hands on an original proof by timothy cole of moonlight by blakelock. It’s a limited edition signed proof. If you have any information of this work, or any interest in it. Feel free to contact me 1-734-693-1510

  6. Genie June 6, 2012

    I have 6 original woodblock prints of Timothy Cole which are signed and dated 1858. I do not know their value. Mother & Child, The Sisters, The Hay Wain, a Gainsborough and Lord Hathfield.

    Anybody know where I can get them valued or know of there value.

  7. John Steins June 6, 2012 — Post author

    How fortunate that you own those Timothy Cole prints. A good place to start in terms of evaluation is Swann Galleries in New York. They specialize in prints and works on paper and conduct auctions regularly.

    Hope this helps.


  8. Tom March 28, 2013

    I am a big fan of engraved graphics.
    Do you have a hi-res scan of Mona Lisa by Timothy Cole?
    I would like to convert it to a vector image for plotters.
    Something like this:

    If you can provide a scan , please contact me directly at
    [email protected]
    Thanks a lot in advance!

  9. john dauer June 7, 2013

    Just found your site. Your wood engravings,and the work
    of your father, are wonderful..
    Speaking of Nepotism, I just bought a painting by Timothy
    Cole’s son, whose incredible name was Alphaeus Philemon Cole. (1876-1988)!!! At the time of his death he was the guaranteed oldest man in the world,(and certainly the oldest artist). He did my oil on canvas when he was only 95. It makes this 80 year old feel like a kid again. Ink promotes longevity. Keep up the good work.

  10. John Steins June 7, 2013 — Post author

    Hi John,

    Thanks so much for stopping by and the info re: Timothy Cole’s son. I’m not exactly a spring chicken either but trying to stay healthy helps. As does pursuing a creative life. I’m glad you like my father’s work, I hope to post more of it as I am able.


  11. Bernadine Fox February 16, 2014

    Hi John,

    I just came across your reply to my comment. Sorry for taking so long to reply.

    I would love to get a digital copy of the Mona Lisa. I presume that that was what you meant by a copy. Can you send it via email? Timothy’s son was not the only incredible name in his/our family which also include Octavian, Corlolanous, Orlando and Sylvanus to name a few. My great grandfather was Alphonso Orlando Percy Cole.


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