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In art, the adjective vintage descibes artwork that is "old" (as opposed to contemporary art) -- but while old or old-fashioned sounds neutral or slightly negative, vintage comes with rather positive connotations, similar to classic. Etymologically, the term vintage compares old artwork to wine which is said to gain quality with age.

Today, the adjective vintage is usually used for work from the 19th century to approximately the 1930s/1940s. It is perhaps most often used for photography, but can also apply to illustrations and non-visual art forms such as works of literature.

Vintage vs. contemporary art

A vintage F/F spanking photo.
A vintage F/F birching photo.

Every era tends to have, in a way, its distinct style, regardless of the artist. You can usually easily tell a work of vintage erotica from contemporary erotica -- even if a contemporary photographer does his best to make his work look like it was 100 years old (a "fake vintage" work). The difference may be subtle and hard to put in words (it's much more than just a matter of black-and-white versus color, hairstyle and costume), but most viewers will be instantly able to tell it apart, which is one of the reasons why original vintage art is still so popular today. (Another is that the copyright of such works will often have expired, putting them in the public domain where they can be freely reproduced for any purpose.)




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