In museum galleries visitors almost always look at the front of the work of art. Curators and conservators often look at the back-or in the case of three dimensional pieces like sculptures and ceramics, the bottom-of the art to gather information not visible when the art is displayed. While preparing prints by Albrecht Dϋrer for exhibit, the paper conservator has spent more time looking at the backs of the prints than at the images on the fronts. The print pictured here, St. George and the Dragon, a woodcut printed between 1501 and 1505, has the artist’s monogram “AD” in the bottom right. On the back, pictured below, is evidence of the history of this 500 year old print. The ink stamps are collectors’ marks that help researchers identify previous owners (provenance) of the print. The three small stamps in the lower left tell us that this print was once owned by Adalbert Freiherr von Lanna, a 19th century print and drawing collector from Prague. Many of the Dϋrer prints in the museum’s collection have as many as five sets of hinges, showing that they have been matted and rematted many times over the years. While a conservator would remove pencil notations by a framer from the back of a print, information that helps researchers learn about the history of a work of art such as the inscriptions on this print are left in place.
Image Credit: 1940.218, Albrecht Dϋrer, St. George and the Dragon, woodcut on paper, 1501-1505, Gift of Herbert Greer French
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