Marks on Art: Painting has started

marks on art project

The RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History is thrilled to announce the receival of a Digital Art History Grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation for the project Marks on Art Database: Brands and stamps on 17th century panel and copper paintings. The Kress Foundation Digital Art History Grant program is intended to support, among others, the digitization of important visual resources in the area of seventeenth-century European art history. For the RKD, the generous award allows photographic documentation of marks on early modern paintings on panel and copper and publication thereof in the RKD databases. 

Marks on Art Database

The current project is the second pillar of the Marks on Art project, and will focus specifically on the digitization, identification and digital publication of maker’s marks and guild hall marks on the reverse of early modern Dutch and Flemish paintings. The marks were collected by Prof. em. dr. Jørgen Wadum since the 1980s. The other pillar of the project involves medieval sculpture. The future goal of the ambitious Marks on Art project is to establish an open access database of all marks found on art objects, including signatures, dealer stamps and transport marks.

marks on art
1. Antwerp panel maker’s punch: Michiel Vrient (active 1615-1637) and Ambrosius Engelants (active 1625-after 1628)
2. Brand applied by the Antwerp Guilt of St. Luke: two ‘Antwerp’ hands and a castle: branding iron in use 1617-1626 and branding iron in use after 1638

The marking of paintings

Panel and copper plate makers marked their products with a personal mark, often a monogram. This is particularly known from Antwerp, but happened in the Northern Netherlands as well. In Antwerp, after a quality check, the guild of St. Luke branded the approved supports with a hall mark too. These marks provide unique information about dating of the artwork, place of manufacture, maker and trade. Marks on art are even for art experts difficult to interpret, thus a trustful and easy accessible database is a longstanding wish in the field. Marks on Art will be integrated into the existing RKD database infrastructure, permitting cross-linking between artwork, artist and technical research data such as dendrochronological research results. This allows for stimulating new avenues for future research, further explored in a symposium in January 2024.

Jørgen Wadum’s dataset

The starting point of the proposed project is a dataset of 485 paintings containing in total 1000+ marks, compiled by Jørgen Wadum during visits to collections and auction houses. This unique dataset, recently donated to the RKD, will be verified, updated and expanded with new marks during Wadum’s Guest Scholarship at the Getty Conservation Institute, January-March 2023. By January 2024, RKD aims to have this dataset available in its databases, and to have published a revised and expanded version of Wadum’s 1998-article ‘The Antwerp brand on paintings on panel’ in the open access publication platform RKD Studies. The RKD welcomes Wadum as associated researcher for the duration of the project.

Please contact Marks on Art if you own a painting with maker’s mark and/or guild hall marks on Specifically, the team is looking for marks on Northern Netherlandish painting.

marks on art
1. Copper maker’s marks and an assay mark on copper: a) GK (not identified master, active 1603-1620), b) Pieter Stas (active 1598- after 1610), c) Jan Michielssens (active 1660-1691) and d) a copper assay master mark ‘GWB’
2. Two as of now unidentified marks on Northern Netherlandish panels: SvM and 4MM (active in Rotterdam?)