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The Art of Identification

Signed with a Symbol
Albert Joseph Moore<br>English, 1841-93<br><i>Battledore</i>, 1868-70<br>Oil on canvas<br>Minneapolis Institute of Arts<br>The Christina N. and Swan J. Turnblad Memorial Fund, by exchange
zoom Albert Joseph Moore
English, 1841-93
Battledore, 1868-70
Oil on canvas
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The Christina N. and Swan J. Turnblad Memorial Fund, by exchange


The English painter Albert Joseph Moore belonged to a group of artists who believed in “art for art sake.” They wanted to get away from social or moral themes and create art for the sole purpose of making something beautiful. The Aesthetic Movement, as it was called, was important in England and America in the 1860s and 1870s.

Moore was greatly influenced by ancient Greek art, especially some sculptures known as the Elgin Marbles. These masterpieces had been brought to England and put on display in the British Museum. Moore’s admiration for their idealized human forms and natural poses can be seen in his painting Battledore (a battledore is a badminton racket). The woman’s clothing is gathered and draped like the garments depicted by Greek sculptors.

Moore decided to sign his artwork with a fanlike flower shape called an anthemion (Greek for “flower”)-a motif used in Greek art and architecture. In Battledore he placed the anthemion in the background. It fits in with other decorative designs so well that we almost don’t realize we’re seeing the artist’s signature.

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1. This ancient Greek vessel has an anthemion band around the top.
Attributed to the Methyse Painter, Athenian red-figure volute krater, 460-450 B.C, slip-glazed earthenware, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Centennial Fund: Gift of funds from Mr. and Mrs. Donald C. Dayton
2. Moore’s friend James McNeill Whistler also signed his works with a symbol, but his was inspired by Asian art. It began as a monogram and evolved into an abstract butterfly.
James McNeill Whistler,Old Putney Bridge, 1879, etching and drypoint, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The William M. Ladd Collection, gift of Herschel V. Jones
3. The German artist Lucas Cranach used a winged serpent as his signature symbol. It was part of his coat of arms.
Lucas Cranach the Elder, Portrait of Moritz Buchner, c. 1520, oil on panel, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The William Hood Dunwoody Fund


November 2009