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Artist attributions

after – a direct imitation of an original artwork, made at a later date

assistant – someone who worked in the artist's studio

and assistants – by the artist, made with help from his assistants

associate of – by someone who had links to the artist, but was not in their studio

attributed to – thought to have been painted by the artist, but there is a degree of uncertainty

by or after – either by the artist or a direct imitation of the artist’s style, made at a later date

by or follower of – either by the artist or by someone who admired them and imitated their style, but was not necessarily a pupil

circle of – by an artist closely associated with the master artist, but who did not work in their studio

copy after – repetition of another artwork, generally made after the artist’s lifetime, or by an artist outside their studio

copy of – repetition of another artwork

follower of – by someone who admired the artist and imitated their style, but was not necessarily a pupil

forgery – imitation of an artwork, intended to deceive

imitator of – by someone who admired the artist and their style, but was probably working at a later date

possibly – thought to be by the artist, but this is uncertain

pupil of – by someone who trained within the studio or workshop of the artist, often profoundly influenced by the artist's style

school of – in the general style or manner of

student of – by someone who trained within the studio or workshop of the artist, often profoundly influenced by the artist's style

studio of – by assistants or pupils who worked in the artist’s studio, probably under the direction and guidance of the artist

and studio – by the artist, with assistance from his studio

studio copy – by pupils in imitation of the master artist. Pupils often copied the artist’s most famous works in order to disseminate copies

style of – by someone who created the artwork in a manner that resembles the artist 



active dates – dates during which an artist was known to be working

unknown artist – identity of the artist is not known

School – group of artists or artworks of the same geographical origin and with stylistic similarities, e.g. British School, French School

Master of – the identity of the artist is not known but artworks by the same hand have been identified. These artists are often named after their most famous works, e.g. Master of the Barbara Legend, or the place where they worked, e.g. Master of Delft



dimensions – size of artwork, given in height then width, in centimetres

(E) – estimated size of artwork

acquisition method – the means by which the artwork has entered the collection

commissioned – the artist was requested to produce the artwork for a specific place or purpose

recto – front of artwork

verso – reverse of artwork

diptych – artwork consisting of two sections: left panel and right panel. The panels are sometimes joined by hinges

triptych – artwork consisting of three sections: centre panel, left wing and right wing. The panels are sometimes joined by hinges

polyptych – artwork consisting of a number of panels

predella – Italian word for the long horizontal structure at the bottom of an altarpiece

(?) – there is uncertainty about this information



C – century

c. – circa, meaning ‘approximately’

early century – beginning of a century (years ’00 to ’29)

mid-century – middle of a century (years ’30 to ’69)

late century – end of a century (years ’70 to ’99)

b. – born

d. – died


Medium and support

medium – binds particles of pigment together, e.g. oil, acrylic or tempera, to make paint. The type of medium, and ratio of medium to pigment, have an impact on the effects that can be achieved with the paint

oil – paint made by mixing pigment with oil. Oil paint dries slowly, and allows artists to achieve a broader and more detailed application of paint, which enables a wide range of optical effects to be achieved. It was first used in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in Northern Europe, before becoming more widely used in the fifteenth century

acrylic – paint containing pigment combined with acrylic polymer emulsion. First used in the 1950s, it is fairly fast-drying and is popular with artists today

tempera – paint made by combining pigment with a medium, such as egg, glue, honey, water, milk and a variety of plant gums. Tempera most often refers to egg tempera

egg tempera – paint made combining pigment with egg yolk. Egg tempera has been used since Antiquity and was commonly used in early Italian painting, before oil paint became widely-used

support – surface an artwork has been made on, e.g. canvas or board

canvas – common painting support. It consists of strong unbleached cloth, which is normally coated with gesso (a white mineral) before being painted on


In January 2017, Andrew Greg of the National Inventory Research Project, University of Glasgow produced a series of blog posts to help shed some light on art terminology. You can read the 'An art-liker's guide to the galleries' series on the Art UK blog, under 'Hints and tips'.