Trash or Treasure? Own a piece of the Rock and what is...

Trash or Treasure? Own a piece of the Rock and what is a gicleé?

Alonzo Chappel's 19th century depiction of Roger Williams landing on Rhode Island's answer to Plymouth Rock.

Alonzo Chappel's 19th century depiction of Roger Williams landing on Rhode Island's answer to Plymouth Rock.
Alonzo Chappel’s 19th century depiction of Roger Williams landing on Rhode Island’s answer to Plymouth Rock.
Did you know at one point, Providence had its own Plymouth Rock? Well, we did and had it not been blown up and sold for souvenirs, we would likely have tourists lined up to see it. Roger Williams reportedly landed in 1636, in what is now Rhode Island, on a slate ledge. The spot is marked by a monument in a small parcel of land called “Slate Rock Park” or “What Cheer Park” on Gano Street in Providence. Williams and his fellow travelers came to this spot on a canoe after they had been asked to leave Rumford. At the time, Rumford was part of the Massachusetts Bay Colony—Roger Williams had just been expelled from there. When he landed near the rock, they met some friendly Narragansett Indians who greeted them with the phrase “What cheer netop?”—a mix of old English and Narragansett meaning something like “what’s up friend?” Williams explained their predicament, at which point he and his companions were directed by the Narragansetts to a spot where they could settle. This settlement became the city of Providence. There is no concrete evidence that this story is exactly true, but it came to be accepted as true sometime around 1821, coincidently when the town of Plymouth celebrated its bicentennial. Plymouth had their rock, why not Providence? However, as time passed, the Rock was covered by soil from washouts. By 1880, reports were that the Rock had been blasted to pieces (in error by some workmen who were working in the area) and pieces were removed, broken up and sold as souvenirs. Original shards sold for between 10 cents to $2.50. Pieces of the Rock ended up in the vestibule of the Central Baptist Church, in the bear statue located in the quad at Brown University, and under the granite monument in Slate Rock Park, erected in 1906. The number of pieces of the Rock is unknown but if you have one, it is certainly a part of Rhode Island history to cherish.

Q.  What is the difference between a lithograph, color lithograph, screen print, serigraph and a gicleé? Which is most valuable?
A.  Ok, this can get confusing but I will try to simplify this as best I can. A lithograph printing technique is based on the principle that oil and water do not mix. A picture is made on a stone or a piece of aluminum using an oil-based ink or crayon. Water is added to the places that aren’t covered with the oily substance. An oily ink is then applied to the whole surface area. It sticks only to the portions that have been covered with the oily chemical. The other portions, which were not created using oily ink or crayon, will repel the ink. A poster is a lithograph usually done on lower quality paper and in mass quantities. A color lithograph specifically refers to any lithograph in which there are more than two colors (other than black).
A screen print, also called a silkscreen or serigraph, is made using a raised image on a screen (originally made of silk, thus “silkscreen”) where the ink is applied and transferred to the paper. Think of a stencil application, where the ink can get through some areas but not others. The ink is forced through the screen. Most T-shirts are screen printed.
Gicleé (“zhee-clay”) is from the French word “gicler” meaning “to squirt”. In a gicleé, the print is produced on an inkjet printer (thus the “squirted” ink). Reproduction of fine art is done more precisely with higher resolution and wider color range than other methods listed above. Because of the higher resolution and overall quality, the gicleé tends to be more expensive but there are exceptions for all types of prints based on artist, rarity and condition.
If you have additional interest, websites such as have a good glossary of terms to help decipher this quickly changing art form.

Karen Waterman is an antique furniture and decorative arts appraiser in the East Bay area and will answer as many questions your own “hidden treasures” as possible. By sending a letter of email with a question, your give full permission for use in the column. Names, addresses or e-mail will not be published and photos will be returned if requested. Send e-mails (digital photos are encouraged) to [email protected] Send snail mail to East Bay Newspapers, Att. Karen Waterman, P.O.Box 90, Bristol, RI 02809.


  1. Typical of Rogues Island to blow up the rock and sell it for souvenirs.
    The die was cast in 1636. I bet the Narragansett Indians were sorry they let Roger and his friends in.