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Conservation Detectives - The story behind the canvas stamp

Conservation Detectives - The story behind the canvas stamp

Conservation Detectives - The story behind the canvas stamp

During the technical examination, conservators not only gained a lot of information about the damage which might not be seen to the naked eye under the normal light but also found out some interesting stories hiding behind the painting.

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There was not much information on the painting itself. We could only reconstruct the story of the portrait from the figure, Rosa Markham, herself and the information from the museum. According to the record, it was painted in the 19th century by an unknown artist who left a signature of A.C.T on the bottom right of the painting.

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However, after a little bit of digging, we gained some interesting information which would prove vital to helping us complete the lost part of the story behind the painting.

On the back of many paintings, there are canvas stamps showing which company produced the original canvas that the artist used.

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The stamps can help us estimate when the painting was painted, and thus narrow down the list of possible artists. According to the canvas stamp on the reverse of the portrait of Rosa Markham, the canvas was produced by George Rowney & Co (now known as Daler-Rowney Limited) between 1848 and 1923.  We then referred to the canvas stamps database from the National Portrait Gallery https://www.npg.org.uk/assets/files/pdf/research/artists_materials_9_Rowney.pdf. We compared the records of stamps on other paintings which were made by the same company at that period of time.

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This investigation unearthed some interesting information and suggested that the canvas was produced and sold between 1904 and 1920. This means that, while the painting could have been painted after 1920 (on a canvas the artist had bought earlier), it could not have been painted before 1904.  Thus, the information from the stamp provided us with an approximate period when the painting should be dated and therefore an indication of whose work it might be.

However, there were still lots of questions we need to try to answer. For example, whether the portrait was painted when Rosa Markham was still alive (she died in 1912), and whether it was definitely painted by the same artist who painted the portrait of her husband, Charles, also in Chesterfield Museum.


Last updated on 22 August 2023