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I picked these up at a market. Both the lady who sold them to me and the framer who is framing them said they think they were made by hand. I've done a fair amount of googling to try and find a technique that could be used to make them and come up blank.

They are effectively very thin card with a layer of foiling on the top.

Can anyone suggest how they were made?

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    Move the pictures around and tilt them in the light. Does it look like there is some kind of colorant on the foil contributing to the shading, or just an embossed surface reflecting light differently? If it's the latter, dark areas should look like the light areas when light reflects from a different angle (it may look like a negative if which surfaces reflect light toward you are reversed). If you have a microscope, look at the surfaces under some magnification. Any signs of very fine particles, or fine texture in the embossing? It might be helpful to add the [technique-identification] tag.
    – fixer1234
    Nov 12, 2022 at 18:09
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    If you very lightly run your finger across an area that has stripes or visual texture, can you feel embossing that corresponds to the visual pattern?
    – fixer1234
    Nov 12, 2022 at 18:28
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    Could you post a close-up of one of them? Maybe at the area of some feathers and some background? It's very hard to see any details in your pictures.
    – Elmy
    Nov 12, 2022 at 19:02
  • @fixer1234 I took these photos when handing them over to a framers so don't have them to hand now. From what I could see it looked like a layer of silver with a layer of gold on top - some damaged areas were burnished and the silver showed through, but could also see silver from some angles. I'll post more when I get them back. Nov 13, 2022 at 9:50
  • @Elmy they are with framers now, but pulled some detail out of the original higher-res photos. Nov 13, 2022 at 9:53

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I knew these had a familiar look. I owned one of a similar genre.

During the 1970s and 1980s, holographic metallic foil became the rage. It was used to make all kinds of art. In some cases, shapes were cut out of it to create silhouettes or mosaic pictures, or to add an accent to them. But there were three styles related to yours.

In one, the holographic foil was used as the background medium, and a picture was printed on it. Sometimes the foil was also etched with patterns that reinforced the picture detail. The foil gave the picture a somewhat 3D appearance; not quite holographic, but the picture popped off the background with a sense of depth, and you got the impression that from the right angle, you could see behind things in the picture.

One picture that was used for this, a number of times for some reason, was an apparently well known picture of Nell Gwynn's house (the version I owned):

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A second way the foil was used was to etch some eye-catching graphic elements in it, and sometimes elements of the picture, and then print a picture on it that left the graphic portions of the foil visible. That gave a similar effect as what was previously described, but the foil, itself, became part of the picture. Here are a few examples:

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Source & further information: Vintage Foil Art Picture Eagle Print Silver and Gold

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Source & further information:Vintage 1970s Silver Foil Art Wall Decor Piece

The third way the foil was used was to etch the entire picture into the foil and not print on top of it. That produced examples like these:

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Source & further information: Vintage 80s Gold Spiral Optical Illusion Art Vintage Gold

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Source & further information: Vintage Pisces Zodiac Gold Foil Framed Art 70's Astrology

You would need to examine your pictures to see whether they contain a printed image on top of the foil, like the second case, or are done entirely in the foil, itself, like the third case.

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  • This is brilliant. Thank you. There is a layer of black printed on top of the gold that is used to pick out some detail, but it's quite subtle. The pictures are with a framers now, but I will post some detail when I get them back. Nov 13, 2022 at 9:46

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