Watermarks and Paper Used for Prints and Drawings c. 1450-1800
Since many centuries European artists have used paper as support for preparatory and other drawings and for etchings, engravings and woodcuts. However, there is only scant information available about the paper they used. Although paper travelled and often was made in one country or region, but bought and used by artists elsewhere, establishing the place and date of production and/or use of paper, sometimes ascertained by watermarks, may help to identify the artist who used the paper. It would be interesting to know how a given paper brand was used by a particular artist and artists in general and in what way paper used by artists for their prints differ from that used for their drawings, letters or poems.
For all these reasons a large set of data and images of watermarks and paper-leaves is now being collected by the Dutch Institute in Florence. We are developing an online database for the study of art works on paper. It will offer the great advantage of a centralized collection of large quantities of watermarks material that can help dating and authenticating prints and drawings. Its cumulative effect will be an essential surplus value to its client/users . With this database the Institute is the art historical partner in Bernstein
– The Memory of Papers – Collaborative Systems in Paper History, a huge international project financed by the European Union, aiming at interlinking European databases of paper reproduction.
Datable paper may provide insights in a given paper brand used by an artist, could help establishing a chronology of works, help to verify authenticity and highlight workshop practices. The uncertain attribution to an artist of a drawing with a particular watermark that is already known from a certain work by the artist may give support to the attribution of the uncertain work. As paper-leaves used for drawings by an artist have often been cut into various pieces, registering the characteristics of one piece of paper with a drawing by the artist may be a starting point for recognizing other pieces of paper with drawings that have belonged to the same leaf and even the same ream of leaves. Many of the so-called peintre-graveurs such as Albrecht D¸rer, Parmigianino and Rembrandt made prints as well as drawings. Sometimes their prints are dated. If the paper of these prints have identical watermarks, they may well help establishing dates and authenticity of undated prints and drawings by the same artist and his workshop and of the relationship among print impressions. Some watermarks may be typical for a certain year or period