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 )