Inscriptions/Marks

DEFINITION

A description of distinguishing or identifying physical markings, lettering, annotations, texts, or labels that are a part of a work of art or are affixed, applied, stamped, written, inscribed, or attached to the work, excluding any mark or text inherent in materials.

SUBCATEGORIES

TRANSCRIPTION OR DESCRIPTION
TYPE
AUTHOR
LOCATION
TYPEFACE/ LETTERFORM
DATE
REMARKS
CITATIONS

DISCUSSION

A precise transcription or a prose description of the inscription is important to provide clarity and explain unusual features of the inscription. The information in this transcription should then be indexed in other subcategories; this makes it possible to formulate queries about types of inscriptions and their authors, as well as their locations, dates, and scripts.

When an inscription or mark is documented, the following characteristics are important: who made it, the way it was made (materials and technique), its location on the object, and an indication of what the inscription says or what the mark looks like. This may include a transcription, transliteration (if it is not in the Roman alphabet), description, or translation. Remarks about the significance of an inscription or mark, and citations to any sources used to identify or describe an inscription or mark, can also be recorded.

Inscriptions and marks are important aids in authenticating a work or object. They also assist in interpretation and dating, and provide information about a work's history. This category is also used to record works that are primarily textual.

Note that the information found in an inscription is not always accurate. Often "signatures," such as many of those on Rembrandt paintings, were added later, and inscribed dates, such as those on Corot's prints, may not reflect the actual date of the printing. Inscriptions may also be difficult to decipher: Joseph Hecht's "1:2" means something different from the normal "1/2" found on a print. The location of an inscription may give it meaning, as is the case of the Gray collection at Harvard. The colophon in a manuscript may be copied in later editions without regard for its accuracy. Inscriptions may have been added to works at sales, such as the Degas estate sale, or by dealers, as stock numbers or coded prices.

When one is transcribing an inscription, care must be taken to respect the inscription as it is written. While inscriptions, stamps, marks, labels, annotations, graffito, and other texts found on a work may provide information that may improve understanding of a work, their interpretation is often disputed. An accurate transcription or description is critical to the use of an inscription as evidence. All explanatory text that accompanies the inscription (e.g., the location or medium) should be clearly distinguished from the transcription. For example, signed lower right, below the image: A Kertész; inscribed by the artist lower right: Paris [Figure 12].

Source

Inscriptions and marks are transcribed during a detailed examination of the object. They may also have been transcribed and published elsewhere. Secondary or primary research sources may have to be consulted to identify the purpose and origin of certain types of inscriptions, such as an inscribed lot number from a sale.

USES

Inscriptions and marks often make it possible to identify an object, distinguish it from other similar works, and further its interpretation. They can help to verify a work's authenticity, attribution, and dating. Inscriptions may also help to identify the subject or purpose of a work of art.

Marks and inscriptions can provide clues to the provenance of a work of art and the history of its use by establishing relationships between works. For example, works that were all in the same collection sometimes bear the same collector's mark. Works that were all in the same sketchbook may have consecutive numbering in the same hand. Metalwork often bears an identifiable hallmark, and similar seals may link various scrolls.

ACCESS

Researchers will primarily be interested in reading an accurate transcription of the inscription, along with explanatory text. When researchers wish to query indexed information contained in the inscription, they will search mainly by the author's name or inscription type, in combination with other characteristics of a work. This would make it possible to identify, for example, all drawings signed by David, or all paintings signed by Velázquez. Specialists may wish to search a defined set of works, such as drawings from a certain date, for inscriptions in a certain medium or location, to find, for example, all works bearing a particular seal of Ito Jakuchu. [1]

RELATIONSHIPS

Identifying numbers, such as model numbers and serial numbers, should be recorded in CREATION - NUMBERS.

Watermarks are treated as a characteristic of the material used as a support, rather than an inscription. They should be recorded in MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES - MATERIALS - MARKS.

Inscriptions or marks found on an object may also provide information recorded in CREATION - CREATOR, CREATION - COMMISSION, CREATION - DATE, SUBJECT MATTER, CONTEXT, SCALE, STATE, OWNERSHIP, and other categories.


Inscriptions/Marks - Transcription or Description

DEFINITION

The transcription or description of the content of the inscription, mark, or text, which includes the material or medium in which the inscription, mark, or text was executed; its support if it is on a separate piece affixed to the object; the method by which the inscription, mark, or text was produced; and a brief description of the content or appearance of the inscription or mark.

EXAMPLES

signed and dated lower left: 1505 / AD [monogram] [Figure 15]

signed lower left below the image: A Kertész; inscribed by the artist lower right: Paris [Figure 12]

inscribed in frame: ECCE ANCILLA DOMINI FIAT MIHI SECUNDUM VERBUM TUU[M]; words projecting from angel's mouth: AVE GRATIA PLENA DOM[INUS TECUM]; text from Isaiah 7:14 is inscribed on book held by the Virgin [Figure 28]

inscribed by the artist, right to left across the top, in brown ink: jicipit liber. endaborum. assauasorda. judeo inebraicho coposit[us] et a platone / tiburtinj inlatin sermone translat[us] anno. arabu. dx. mse sap h ar / capi tulu pimu ingeometrice arihmetice (p) vnyversalia proposita: franco. o dif. [referring to a geometry book by Abraham bar Hiyya Savasorda in library of San Marco, Florence]; bottom left corner, collection mark of Sir Thomas Lawrence: L.2445 [Figure 30]

inscribed lower center: COSMO MEDICI / DVCII / FLORENTINOR.ET.SENESNS. / URBIS ROMAE / AEDIFICIORVM ILLVSTRIVMQVAE / SVPERSVNT RELIQVIAE SVMMA ...

signed in the plate, lower center: Iullius Parigu Inv. Iacobus Callot F.

stamped under the back seat rail IAVISSE [for Jean Avisse] [Figure 14]

printed in gold on front cover, center: PROJETS / POUR LA VILLE / DE / ST. PETERSBOURG; folios numbered from 1-20 on verso in graphite at upper left

lid is painted with monogram and coat of arms of 8th daughter of Louis XV of France, Madame Louise; bowl is marked on bottom with painter's mark of Méraud père and the date letter "L" (for the year 1764) [Figure 1]

inscribed in pen and gray ink over graphite, upper right: hic.corona.exit. [---] / .ob.diminuitionem. / colonna[rum]

inscribed on reserved edge of footplate with partially preserved name of the potter Euphronios; underneath the foot is an Etruscan graffito that indicates that the cup was later dedicated to Herakles; the names of all figures were originally inscribed in the field around them [Figure 16]

inscribed in Slavonic, in upper right on scroll held by angel: [The souls of the righteous are now in the hands of the Lord. The heavenly powers open the gates to receive the soul of the great Tsar Alexander.]

signed and dated upper right: Rembrandt f. / 1635; upper left: AET.SVE [VE in monogram] .70 / 24: / (3?)

signed in lower left: GBPiazzetta; inscribed and dated verso, in a later hand: S. Maria dei Servi / 1735

Latin text in Carolingian minuscule, arranged in columns of 20 lines [Figure 31]

"I didn't take no stereos";/ "You are in North America when you don't know where you are";/ "Why don't you go back to where you come from?" [2]

"Within the floral wreath, the plate is embossed with the letters 'QR' under a crown, with the marking '1st AMN'." [3]

DISCUSSION

An exact transcription or accurate transliteration of an inscription, or a description of a mark found on an object, should be recorded. All marks or written words added to the object at the time of production or in its subsequent history should be noted, including signatures, dates, dedications, texts, and colophons, as well as marks, such as the stamps of silversmiths, publishers, or printers. Inscriptions, marks, or annotations found on any secondary support, mat, mount, frame, or plaque adjacent to the work or on paper or other types of labels attached to the work can also be described here.

In transcriptions, line breaks should be indicated by a slash or some other conventional notation. Missing or illegible text should be indicated by ellipses, question marks, or other conventional notation. The transcription may be accompanied by explanatory information or a translation. The location of inscription (e.g., lower right or verso) should be included for clarity. Signatures and dates should be clearly distinguished from other inscriptions. Other information can also be included; it is particularly important to note unusual or important features, such as when the medium is unusual or different from that of the image, when an artist's name is not a signature, when the signature is in the plate rather than on the sheet of a print, when a date is incorrect, etc. Any such editorial text should be clearly distinguished from the actual transcription.

If it is not possible to transcribe a lengthy inscription, it can be described or characterized. For example, a complex Chinese scroll may have many seals; rather than transcribe or describe each one, it may be preferable to indicate seals present and list the names of the collectors represented. Stamps or other marks are described according to their shape and motifs.

Source

Inscriptions should be recorded after a detailed examination of the object, or can be found in secondary sources, such as exhibition or collection catalogs.

USES

An accurate transcription or description of the content and materials of an inscription or mark aids in its identification and analysis. It also enhances understanding of it and provides additional information about the purpose, date, and past use of a work.

ACCESS

The important information in the inscription is indexed in the other subcategories of INSCRIPTIONS/MARKS. It should be possible to find all works, for example, where the artist is Rembrandt but the signature is in a later hand, or where a specific Mayan glyph appears.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

Transcriptions, lacunae, illegible words, line breaks, etc. should be indicated in a consistent way.


Inscriptions/Marks - Type

DEFINITION

The kind of inscription, stamp, mark, or text written on or applied to the work.

EXAMPLES

inscribed
not inscribed
signed
dated
titled
maker's mark
marked
foundry mark
hallmark
production mark
colophon
imprinted
labeled
printer's chops
stamped
collector's mark
bookplate
impressed
not examined
stamped
carved
painted
graffito
dipinto

DISCUSSION

In general, it is important to note the presence or absence of inscriptions, e.g., "inscribed" or "not inscribed." It is also useful to record the specific type(s) of inscriptions or marks. Different types of inscriptions may be found on a single work.

Inscription type is used to indicate the presence of an artist's signature, date mark, maker's mark, and other types of marks and inscriptions. Each type of mark is identified, so that it will be possible to search for specific types of inscriptions or marks, such as all monograms, or all works that have dates.

It is often difficult to identify whether a signature is autograph or not. For example, Dürer's monogram has been added to many works by other artists. It must be possible to accommodate uncertainty in this category.

An inscription may be of more than one type, as for example, when a work is both signed and dated.

USES

This subcategory makes it possible to search for works with a particular kind of inscription, as, for example, sculptures signed by Alexander Calder.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of controlled terminology is recommended, such as the AAT (especially the Processes and Techniques and Information Forms hierarchies). Also, A Guide to the Description of Architectural Drawings, pp. 127-128, includes guidelines for recording marks and inscriptions.


Inscriptions/Marks - Author

DEFINITION

The name or a phrase identifying the author or person responsible for the mark, inscription, or text found on a work.

EXAMPLES

Theo Van Gogh
Margaret, Duchess of Newcastle
The painter of Grolier 49
Mayan 8th century
unknown 19th century
unknown

DISCUSSION

Since a work may have many different inscriptions, each should be distinguished by identifying the individual(s) who made it.

This subcategory makes it possible to associate the person who wrote an inscription, or applied a mark, with a transcription or description of that inscription.

Often it is difficult to identify the author of an inscription definitively; in many cases, those who added inscriptions on an object are identified in relative terms, or by the time when the inscription was made. Uncertainty must be accommodated here.

USES

The identification of the author of an inscription allows the user to assess its significance and accuracy.

ACCESS

The information in this subcategory makes it possible to find all works inscribed by a specific person, e.g., an artist or a collector.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of consistent forms of personal and corporate names is recommended. See for example, Canadiana Authorities, LC Name Authorities, and ULAN. Controlled vocabulary or consistent syntax should be used to indicate "unknown hands." See CREATION - CREATOR - IDENTITY.


Inscriptions/Marks - Location

DEFINITION

The position on the work of art where an inscription or mark is found.

EXAMPLES

upper left
lower right
verso, upper center
below the left handle
along the bottom edge
lower-left leg
on underside of base
within printing plate
within letter block

DISCUSSION

This subcategory records the location of an inscription or mark. The location generally refers to a section of the object.

The place in which an inscription and/or mark appears on a work of art is important to its interpretation. For example, the alignment of the seals on Chinese scrolls can be significant. An inscription found within the image of a print [Figure 34] has a different significance than printed letters that were added to the plate later, or that may have been printed with a different plate. Both these types of inscriptions may appear on many different impressions of a print, while an inscription added to the sheet after it was printed may be unique to a particular impression.

The location of inscriptions and marks can be thought of in many different ways, and the system used to describe it will vary depending on the type of object. For two-dimensional works, the first concern is whether an inscription appears on the recto or the verso of the work. On works consisting of one plane, systems that divide the work into quadrants from upper left to lower right are often used. With three-dimensional objects, phrases such as below the lip or on the base may be used.

USES

The position of an inscription or mark can provide clues to its significance and interpretation. For example, a collector may number all his drawings in the same way on the same corner. It may be possible to reassemble parts of the collection on the basis of this numbering scheme.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of consistent terminology is recommended when recording the location of inscriptions and marks.


Inscriptions/Marks - Typeface/Letterform

DEFINITION

The name or a descriptive phrase that identifies the typeface or script used in an inscription.

EXAMPLES

Helvetica 9 pt bold
Univers
Gothic script
open letters
Carolingian minuscule [Figure 31]
rustic capitals
dotted delta
three-bar sigma

DISCUSSION

Identifying the typeface or letter form used in an inscription makes it possible for the reader to create a mental picture of it. It also aids in the authentication and attribution of inscriptions.

Typefaces and letter forms are identified by names or phrases. It may not be possible to identify a typeface or letter form definitively, and phrases that qualify an identification, such as close to Gill Sans, may be used.

USES

The typeface or letter form used to create an inscription can be used to date and attribute it. It may help assess its significance and meaning.

In works that are primarily textual, the typeface or letterform reflects aesthetic choices.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

The use of controlled vocabulary is recommended, such as ACRL/RBMS Printing and Publishing Evidence and ACRL/RBMS Type Evidence.

Inscriptions/Marks - Date

DEFINITION

The date when an inscription or mark was added to a work of art.

EXAMPLES

Dec. 12, 1991
May 1970
1993
between 1700 and 1798
by 1848-ca. 1880
1940-1949
17th century
Christmas 1492
20 August 1542
Summer 1956

DISCUSSION

An inscription date assists in the authentication and assessment of the inscription.

Source

In some cases, the date of an inscription may be found within the inscription itself.

USES

The date of an inscription is important for assessing its significance and meaning. It may make it possible to locate works inscribed at the same time by the same person.

TERMINOLOGY/FORMAT

Dates can be recorded in two ways: as text (illustrated in the above examples), and as two integers indicating the beginning of a date span and the end of a date span (dates BCE can be stored as negative values). Rigidly controlled format is required to allow retrieval. The use of date guidelines is recommended, such the AAT Date Guidelines or ISO 8601: Dates & Times.


Inscriptions/Marks - Remarks

DEFINITION

Additional notes or comments on the authorship, interpretation, or significance of an inscription, including the date a mark, inscription, or text was added to a work.


Inscriptions/Marks - Citations

DEFINITION

A reference to a bibliographic source where the mark or signature is described or transcribed, or where information about a mark or inscription was found.

__________

ENDNOTES

1 Watson, William, ed., The Great Japan Exhibitor, Art of the Edo Period 1600-1868 (London: Royal Academy of Art, 1981-2), cat. no. 44, pp. 76-78.

2 Michael Fernandes, signage component, installation at inaugural exhibition of the Grace Hopper artists' collective, 1989, cited in Barbara Sternberg, "The Big Picture Has No Frame--The Jig's Up," Michael Fernandes: Walls (Toronto: The Power Plant, 1990), p. 11.

3 Donald Blake Webster, et al., Georgian Canada: Conflict and Culture, 1745-1820 (Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 1984), p.125, cat. no.111.