Paper trail: how watermarks illuminate Rembrandt's creative process

(February 27, 2019)

Three and a half centuries after Rembrandt’s death, questions persist about his creative process, including the pace at which he often reworked the surface of a copper printing plate to create multiple states of an etching. As scholars seek to document the various states, watermarks have proved an invaluable tool, allowing them to trace different impressions to specific batches of paper that the artist bought for his workshop and to thereby date the print.

Now students and professors at Cornell University are developing a website that will allow a user to upload an image of the watermark found on a Rembrandt print and then quickly classify it. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, they hope to have the online interface ready by the end of the summer, says Andrew Weislogel, a curator of earlier European art and American art at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell, who has helped lead the effort. The website will be tested by partner academic institutions before it becomes available to all.

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