O = Overview of Vermeers signatures in his paintings

Signatures and Authenticity

In general, a signature, even if proven genuine, cannot definitely establish the true attribution of a painting. It is known that Rubens sent some of his paintings to Spain with a letter that stated the paintings were by his best students yet signed by him. Rembrandt, as well, routinely signed works of his apprentices to bring in supplementary income.
Since signatures on paintings are so vulnerable to ageing and so difficult to examine with even the most sophisticated scientific equipment, and because they are in the overwhelming number of cases so easy to imitate, signatures are, then, not one of the strongest means to determine if a work of art is authentic or forged.

Overview of Vermeers signatures


Johannes Vermeer: Signatures

Twenty-three paintings by Vermeer’s paintings bear legible signatures. The early Diana and her Companions once presented vestiges of the artist’s signature which was still reproduced in the 1859 catalogue of the Mauritshuis. It has since been removed presumably by overzealous cleaning. Only three works bear both a signature and date. Some of the most important works, like the Milkmaid and the Woman in Blue Reading a Letter are neither signed nor dated.  Most of the Vermeer’s signed canvases present a characteristic monogram or variants of it employing different combinations of the letters “V, ” “M” or “I” followed by “eer” meant to complete the letters of the of the artist’s full name, Vermeer.  A few works, such as the Astronomer, the Geographer and the Lacemaker, the artist placed surprisingly large signatures on unmodulated fields of colour making them impossible to neglect.

Signatures of other painters

23 different signatures was not very common amongst painters. Of his 35, 36? paintings attributed to Vermeer 23 different signatures or monograms. Rembrandt, for instance, somewhere about 420 paintings signed like this:


Meesters in de Schilderkunst – Lekturama, Rotterdam, 1967, pag. 10 )


10 thoughts on “O = Overview of Vermeers signatures in his paintings

  1. Yes, it definitely can be that simple that he changed his signature with age (like Rembrandt did as well). It's only interesting almost none are the same…

    Glad you liked it Mona Lisa,


  2. You are one smart lady, Leigh and if you learn something it's more because of differences in our interests.

    I'm glad you like it, nevertheless. Smile.


  3. Vant it be so simply, that as older he was.. he just changed his signature?
    I remember My signature, when I was 20.
    Then and now.. A big difference. I think , it is same for you.

    You did it again, Han.
    En interesting post.
    Thank you.

    Mona Lisa


  4. No, I think Vermeer sold his paintings locally so most people knew his work so the need for signing was not so necessary. Maybe some of his signatures have been painted over in all these years in restoration. Who knows? Why did he sign differently? Alas it is only a guess…

    Thank you for your comment,


  5. Well I am very interested why you sign some painting, and some not. It seems Vermeer did the same. Is there a special meaning in signing? Do you want it to be recognized as yours?



  6. Hello Fellow A-To-Zer! Interesting stuff- I didn't know Vermeer had so many different signatures. Do you think he just kept developing his signature throughout his lifetime, or could some of the variations at least be due to age/cleaning/other damage?


  7. Wow, Han…I never knew this. Guess I never really paid much attention to the signatures on any of the paintings. Thanks for sharing.

    Hugs and blessings…Cat


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