The back of a painting (which is also called the verso) can be a passport for a work of art, showing where it has been during its life. Sometimes there are actual customs stamps if a painting crossed borders, but there are also labels, wax seals, and handwritten inscriptions that record where it has been and who owned it. Each mark is a clue that reveals a little bit more about the painting’s life.\n\nGetty recently uploaded the versos of more than 320 paintings to our [online collections pages.] Even if we can’t deduce what a mark means now, by sharing it publicly we hope someone will recognize it and we can better understand the painting’s history.\n\n\n : https://www.getty.edu/art/collection/ As a curatorial assistant in the paintings department, I’ve been cataloging and documenting the backs of paintings for the past couple of years. I’ve noted the size, color, shape, and position of the marks on the back, transcribed any text as best I could, and then tried to figure out what it all meant. Much of the time, handwriting is hard to read, or a label is too faded or ripped to make out a crucial detail, or there are just not enough context clues to understand what a mark means.\n\nHowever, sometimes something new reveals itself. One of my favorite discoveries was finding a connection between Sebastiano Ricci’s *[Diana and Her Dog]* and the William Hogarth pair *[Before]* and *[After]*. These paintings depict Diana, goddess of the hunt, and a satirical narrative of a sexual encounter, but the backs of these paintings tell another story about where they have been.\n\n\n : http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/669/sebastiano-ricci-diana-and-her-dog-italian-1717-1720/\n : http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/660/william-hogarth-before-english-1730-1731/\n : http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/661/william-hogarth-after-english-1730-1731/ I noticed the paintings all had the same labels from Ernest Brown & Phillips Ltd., a London dealer. When I contacted the dealer, he checked his stockbooks for the numbers on the paintings and discovered that the three paintings were all sold to a Swedish publisher and art collector named Thorsten Laurin in January 1936. The paintings were later sold to J. Paul Getty via Sotheby’s London auctions, but these sales were about a decade apart and Thorsten Laurin’s name was not previously known to us, except as a “Swedish collector.” It was great to fill in this blank and find a link between otherwise unrelated paintings. I had discovered an unknown connection between these paintings, learned when exactly the gallery bought and sold them, and helped the gallery discover a label they hadn’t previously known about! These small details help piece together the lives these paintings had before they ended up in the museum. We can imagine these artworks for sale in the dealer’s London gallery in the 1930s, then in Laurin’s villa full of books and art in Stockholm throughout World War II, and finally in J. Paul Getty’s large Tudor manor in the English countryside and his museum that was formed just a couple miles from the beach in Malibu.\n\nThese histories contained in an object give us a snapshot of the past. We’re able to learn more about which subjects and artists were popular, who was collecting and selling art, and how viewers interpreted art. Knowing who owned a painting and how they displayed it can also give us insight into who might have seen it and been influenced or inspired by it. By tracing an object as it passed between hands from its maker up until the present, we can see how it was valued over time and how it came to be known to us today. A reason why many artworks are part of the art historical canon and celebrated now is because they were once owned or appreciated by influential people like kings and nobility, who added to their status back then and still today.