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Antique Pears Soap Chromolitho Print Girl Feeding Rabbits 1904


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This is a gorgeous chromolithographed poster issued in 1904 by Pears Soap as part of their Christmas annual giveaway.  It is known as “Girl Feeding Rabbits” as well as “Alice in Wonderland” and is after an original oil painting by Frederick Morgan (1847-1927).  Morgan specialized in paintings with idyllic themes, often featuring children and animals or country scenes.  His paintings were very popular with the Victorians.

This is an authentic original chromolitho dating to 1904.  I’ve included close-ups of the print, so that you can see that the print was not produced with photo based lithography, due to the absence of “dots” in the four primary colors of cyan, yellow, black and magenta.  Chromolitho prints were very difficult to produce because each color employed had to be printed separately.  The problem was that with repeated passes in the printing press, the paper would stretch, and registration became difficult, so often there was a lot of wastage.  The final result, however, is clearly superior to what is produced by photolithography, with truer, more vivid coloring and a natural “blend” in the color palette of the picture.

Pears Soap had roots back to the 18th century, when Andrew Pears, a barber, invented a glycerine based soap to replace the harsh soaps used up until then.  The company, A. & F. Pears, was formed in 1835 by his grandson Francis Pears - his son-in-law Thomas J. Barratt, is considered the father of modern advertising.  During the late 19th century, Pears became famous for their marketing, using all types of devices to promote their product, including celebrity endorsement - Lillie Langtry was enlisted and became the first woman to endorse a commercial product.  Another way that Pears promoted their soap was by issuing a Christmas Annual between 1891 and 1925.  In conjunction with the annuals were the chromolithographic print posters based on paintings purchased by Pears for reproduction.  Pears issued 2 to 4 large prints, depending on the year, and issued about 100 prints over the 34 years that they printed the annuals.

This print is framed under glass in its original gilt wood frame.  The piece has an old framing service label on its back, which reads “From Bennett’s Art Store 232 Laurier Ave. West Montreal”.  Bennett’s first appearance at that address was in 1929, so this piece was framed or re-framed some 25 years or more after it was issued.  I haven’t taken the print out of the frame, but I would assume that the margins have been cut.  Still, this displays wonderfully, and is a very rare piece to find - you’ll see reproduction photolithos of this poster, but original chromolitho prints are extremely rare - I couldn’t find another example anywhere online.  The frame measures 23” by 30 1/2” and the open display area measures 18 1/2” by 26 1/2”.  It is framed under non-reflective glass - I’m unsure if this is original or has been more recently added.  The print is in very good condition with no fading or visible wear or tear except for some light spots to the upper right near the lone rabbit (see second to last close-up photo).  The frame is also in very good condition with the exception of a small patch at the lower right where there is a bit of gilt loss and another smaller one at the lower left.

This is a beautiful print - rare antique Pears chromolitho, lovely display piece in a country decor or a Victorian home, very pleasant image to admire!