3 Things to Look for at the Back of a Painting


1. Labels

Most galleries will label the artworks they buy and sell. These labels can which galleries have owned the painting and, if you're lucky, the year they bought it. A reputable gallery name can be great for provenance and add to a work's value. Exhibition labels are also important to look for. An exhibition label can also lead us to original reviews, allowing us to see how a painting was first received and a good addition to catalogue notes.

2. Chalk Marks and Barcodes

When trying to learn more about a painting, chalk marks help trace a work's journey through the big auction houses. Sotheby's has always used yellow chalk to mark pictures, which can offer some clues about a work's history, and Christie's has used stencil marks, which allow you to see who has bought and owned a work over the course of its history. Many of these marks date right back to their very first consignment. These marks are a fascinating insight into previous owners and very likely add value to the artwork.

3. Possible Signs of Restoration

The lining at the back of a painting is central to the work's condition; unlike the front of a piece, the back of a work will often allow you to see whether it's been lined or not. You can tell a picture has been lined if there is another canvas mounted on the back of it. It's a good indication that a work has been restored, which can be good or bad. Essentially, restoration indicates that the piece has been damaged at some point and restored; the extent of such damage requires further investigation. Sometimes a work is lined because it's had a lot of work done; sometimes, a lining is added just to stabilize the work, or in response to a very minute level of damage.

About the Author:

Madelaine D'Angelo is the Founder and CEO of Arthena, the world's first crowdfunding platform for Art Investment. Madelaine hold's her Masters from Harvard University and is a expert in Art + Tech. Follow Madelaine D'Angelo on Twitter: @arthenaart