Inscriptions, Monograms, Stamps and Labels
Information on the back of your painting may tell you as much or more about its history than the image itself.
Exhibition and inventory labels, labels from art dealers, restorers and owners are typical kinds of labels found on the back of paintings and picture frames. These inherently fragile attachments may become lost and with them, critical information pertaining to the work’s history. My treatments include assessment and treatment of paper attachments to ensure their preservation. I also attach my own label to the backing board to document that a treatment was undertaken. The owner/person to whom the treatment report was submitted is noted on my label, which may help locate this record in the future. Conservation records should be safely stored by the owner and ideally, passed on with the painting when it leaves their possession.
Artists’ Colourmen Stamps
Signatures and Monograms
Clients are disappointed when a signature is not present or apparent, and lack of artist identification admittedly has a negative effect on market value. Signatures and monograms may be found on the front or back of paintings, and if the work is heavily soiled, may be difficult to see. Signatures which initially appear illegible may sometimes, with prolonged study, become legible; if the first letters may be discerned, you may be assisted with online alphabetical lists of artists’ names.
The stretcher inscription below was the only form of identification on a 19th century British India portrait. What was the name’s significance….owner? artist? sitter? I eventually determined it was the identity of the sitter, Alexander Fairlie Bruce, born August 1799, a Madras civil servant, and son of Sir William Bruce of Stenhouse, 7th Baronet.