RKD Netherland Institute for art History
Over the last few years Margreet Wolters from the RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History has been developing the MARKS ON ART database together with the two people who devised it, Seppe Roels (conservator of polychrome sculpture) and Marieke van Vlierden (an art historian who specialises in medieval sculpture). The purpose of this new database, which will become accessible online in due course, is to gather and share detailed information on a range of different marks that can be found on sculptures, furniture and the backs of panel paintings. The MARKS ON ART database is linked to RKDimages so that users will shortly be able to search by mark as well as artwork.
Besides the more commonly encountered marks – signatures, monograms, master's marks, quality control marks and panel maker's marks – the MARKS ON ART database will include the marks of merchants and commissioners as well as assembly marks, which were added to indicate the position of an element within a larger object, for example a retable. Created or added in the course of the production process of the object, these marks provide unique information about such things as the maker, when and where the object was produced, or about its transport or the supplier of materials.
The project rests on two pillars. Firstly, the extensive collection of quality control marks, panel maker's marks and copperplate maker's marks that have been amassed over several decades by Professor Jørgen Wadum. Many of the names and nicknames of these panel and copperplate makers are known. It has even proved possible to identify the individual branding irons used by panel makers and to specify the years during which they were used. Similarly, the quality control marks of the Antwerp guild can be dated by identifying the branding iron used.
The second pillar, which is the initiative of Marieke van Vlierden and Seppe Roels, concerns marks on medieval sculpture. Over the next four years, sculptures in important public and private collections as well as a number of churches in the Landschaftsverband Rheinland will be checked for marks. The sculptures and any marks on them will be carefully photographed and documented and the information will then be added to RKDimages and the MARKS ON ART database.By collating these data in the coming years, the RKD, the project's initiators and the collaborating partners will be creating a unique research tool.
When the current phase of the project is completed in mid-2022, the programme will hopefully continue. The RKD and the project's initiators would like to develop the MARKS ON ART database further, for example by working together with new partners.
Do you have, or does your institution care for an important collection of paintings, sculpture or furniture on which marks are visible? Have you got additional information concerning marks on artworks, or would you like to make a financial contribution to (an aspect of) the project? If so, please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org.