The RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History is establishing an open access database of marks found on art objects, Marks on Art. Even for experts, marks on artworks can be difficult to interpret, thus a trustful and easily accessible database is a longstanding wish in the field of art history and conservation studies.
Marks on panel and copper
The current project phase focuses specifically on the digitisation, identification and digital publication of maker’s marks and guild hall marks on the reverse of 16th- and 17th-century Dutch and Flemish panel and copper paintings. At an earlier date, the RKD started documenting marks on medieval sculpture. Panel and copper plate makers marked their production with a personal mark, often a monogram. After a quality check, the local guild of St. Luke branded the approved supports with a hall mark. These marks in combination provide unique information about an artwork’s dating, place of manufacture, maker, and trade. The RKD calls on researchers, conservators and curators to send in photos of paintings with maker’s marks and/or guild hall marks.
The project goals
In the project Marks on Art, the RKD works in close collaboration with Prof. em. dr. Jørgen Wadum. The starting point is Wadum’s unique dataset of thousands of marks, collected since the 1980s during visits to collections and auction houses. By January 2025, the RKD aims to present this dataset in its sustainable and freely available database infrastructure, permitting cross-linking between artwork, artist, and technical research data such as dendrochronological research results. In addition, a revised and expanded version of Wadum’s 1998-article ‘The Antwerp Brand on paintings on panel’ will be published in the open access publication platform RKD Studies. This project received a generous grant from the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) providing Wadum with a three-month Conservation Guest Scholarship as well as a Digital Art History Grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Recently, the Mondriaan Fund awarded a grant under the heading of Internationale Samenwerkingsprojecten Erfgoedinstellingen.
Please contact project leader Dr. Angela Jager with 16th and 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings with maker’s mark and/or guild hall marks in your collection, via email@example.com. You are kindly asked to share data and high-resolution digital photographs of the paintings bearing marks, and collaborate on the future database by granting the RKD a licence to reproduce these in the RKD databases, the website and on our digital publication platform RKD Studies. High resolution images of these paintings and marks plus up-to-date information about the works of art themselves would be of tremendous value to future research in art history.