The Object ID checklist recommends that, in addition to providing
the information covered in the preceding categories, users write
a short description that can also include additional information
helping to identify the object. These descriptions can be written
in two ways: either to record information not covered in other categories
or to summarize the information recorded under other categories
in a unified entry.
Non-experts may wish to confine the description to new information,
answering the following questions to the extent that the information
the other hand, often use the description to summarize all information
of relevance in a unified entry. Auctioneers and dealers commonly
include the following information in the description. While the
order may vary among organizations and even departments, it is important
to be as consistent as possible in terms of both the format and
the order of the information within a given set of records:
- What does
the object look like, what are its colors and shape; are there
other attributes not recorded elsewhere in the record?
- What is
its place of origin, its provenance, the history of the objects
ownership; has it ever been exhibited?
- Has anything
been written about it?
- Name of
dates and sometimes locus of activity
("sight size," see Measurements)
or subject if there is no title
if the painting is signed and dated
literature, and exhibition history
In the case
of furniture, and many other types of objects, the emphasis is less
on the maker and more on the appearance of the object. The following
is typical of the information provided, although the order in which
it is given varies:
(Tournai 1676-1765 Antwerp)
The Fortune Teller
Oil on panel, 33.6 x 48.2 cm
John Theobald Michau
Mitchell & Son, 1966
Private collection, UK
phrase that can combine style/period of manufacture, the type
of object, and principal material(s)
and techniques used, together with a description of the objects
In the antiques
trade, it is usual to describe items of furniture from the top down,
starting with the upper surface and working down to the legs.
Baroque cupboard in Caucasian walnut, veneered pine, with doors
divided into four mirrored sections, parquetry in walnut, root,
fine-grained myrrh and cherry
234 x 197 x 75 cm
Germany, Mainz-Kurpfalz, circa 1750
of jewelry can include the materials (e.g., diamond, topaz, bronze,
gold) and, where appropriate, their purity (e.g., 18 carat),
the ways in which any stones are cut (e.g., brilliant, baguette,
Swiss), the positions of inclusions, the forms of settings (e.g.,
scroll, scallop or arcade, organ pipe), makers marks
and purity marks, names of designers and or makers, place and date
of manufacture, and other constructional and decorative techniques
employed, as well as any subject matter depicted.
crossbanded plank top with re-entrant corners. The frieze with
one long drawer above three short drawers, all with their original
handles. Standing on bifurcated legs with pad feet.
The written description should also qualify any information about
which there is a degree of uncertainty.
While the description
should create a picture of the object in the minds eye of
the reader, in reality it is not always easy for non-experts to
visualize an object from the description alone. This is why photographs
are of crucial importance. The written description and the accompanying
photographs should be complementary the photograph illustrating
the features described by the written record, and the written record
providing the information about the objects physical characteristics
and history that cannot be gained from the image alone.
According to tradition this decorative ship carving came from
the packet ship, Congress
. . . .probably to commemorate the marriage of Philip Papillon
. . . .possibly owned by George Parnall, mayor of Hereford in
In the writing of descriptions, specialist jargon should be avoided,
as should adjectives such as interesting, old, rare, and
In addition to providing the information recommended by Object ID,
the description can also be used to summarize the history of the
ownership of the object (its provenance), its exhibition history,
and any literature concerning it (see Related
Written Material). These categories do not greatly assist
the process of identifying an object, but can be of great value
when it comes to proving ownership particularly when title
Ideally, a complete record of the provenance of an object includes
all owners from the time it left the makers possession to
the time it was acquired by the present owner. In addition to the
names of owners, it may include their places of residence, the dates
of their ownership of the object, methods of acquisition, uncertainty
or lapses in provenance, and any other information regarded as relevant.
The history of the ownership of an object can, therefore, provide
useful evidence, not only about former owners, but also, by extension,
about the location of the object throughout time.
history of an object provides the names, locations and dates of
any exhibitions at which the object is known to have been shown,
e.g., Exhibited: Paris, Grand Palais, Salon (Société National
des Beaux Arts), 1914. If an exhibition catalogue was produced,
this can be recorded in Related Written
Material (see Additional Recommended
Robert Smythson (England, ca. 1535-1614); John Smithson (died
1634); Huntingdon Smythson (died 1648); John Smithson the Younger
(1640-1717);. . .sold by the 5th Lord Byron at Newstead Abbey,
Nottinghamshire, June 1778, lot 344; there bought by the Rev.
DEwes Coke of Broke-hill Hall, Derbyshire; by descent to
Mrs. S. Coke of Broke-hill Hall, from whom the drawing was purchased
by the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1927.