The signature: history and evolution
The signature of an artwork finds its origin in Renaissance times. When the figures of artists started to specialise within large workshops and Corporations, some artisans stood out for their creativity and skill, to the point of claiming and certifying the authorship of their work
In order to not interfere with the reading of an artwork, many artists concealed their initials and often even the production date within the composition.
In this big painting, the artist Jacopo Vignali signed and dated the artwork in an almost imperceivable way.
Sometimes, a signature was used as an element to balance the composition as long as it matched the colours used in the scene.
This is the case in the still life of Nicola Massa.
Often, an artist did not had a single way to sign its works. These two paintings by Geronimo Cenatempo are a fine example.
From signature to brand
In the 19th century, the artistic production grown independently form the demand. In a context now free from the market logics, it was through signatures that the attention moved from the artwork to its author.
In 1898, Plinio Nomellini was at the peak of his formation and begun to exhibit in the Torino Exhibition and then in the Venice Biennale: on his works, his name had to be readable and eye-catching.
In 1905, although being at the top of his carrer, Boldini diligently signed this double portrait.
Portrait of Elvira, the painter's sister (1934) by Felice CasoratiBiennale Internazionale dell'Antiquariato di Firenze
In the 20th century, signatures almost hinted the artistic movement of their author. As a faithful tribute to Renaissance portraits, Felice Casorati signs the portrait of his sister Elvira with his initial and in capital letters.
The signature of the Cuban painter Wafredo Lam seems to imitate and complete the surrealistic composition.
In line with the Fauves movement, whose aim was to simplify shapes, Van Dongen's signature seems only suggesting the letters in it.
We would like to thank: Salamon gallery, Michele Gargiulo Antiquario, Giorgio Baratti, Secol - Art, Società di Belle Arti, Galleria Berardi, Antonacci Lapiccirella Fine Art, Bottegantica and Dickinson Gallery.
We are grateful to Luigi de Benedetto for curating the contents.