Our Guide To Attributions

Our Guide To Attributions

Author: Andy Shield

If you're new to the world of antique fine art, you may find some of the terminology relating to attributions a little baffling. What does it mean when a painting is 'attributed to' Anthony van Dyck? Or in the 'circle of' Thomas Lawrence?

All the leading auction houses and dealers use common nomenclature to explain who they feel an artwork was produced by. But unfortunately, there are various nuances, which can lead to confusion.

We're very careful indeed with our attributions and work hard to undertake research beforehand. Here's how we apply the most common terms.


A work by that artist. Signed or otherwise.

Attributed to

A work of the artist's period, which is probably by them - either in part or completely.

Studio/Workshop of

A work by an unknown hand which may have been executed in the studio or workshop of the artist.

School of

A work by an unknown hand, possibly a pupil of the artist.

Circle of

A work from the period of the artist and showing their influence.

Follower of

A work executed in the style of the artist but not necessarily by a pupil.

Manner of

This is often confused with 'follower of', so we use it for works that appear to be deliberate fakes. Although, we've not had any of those yet. E.g. they bear an artist's signature or inscription but by another hand.


A copy of any date after a work by the artist. For example, an English 19th-century copy of a work by Peter Paul Rubens. Or an engraving 'after' Raphael.


There's also the use of 'school' in artwork titles, which aims to provide some contextual background relating to origin or philosophies. For example, 'Barbizon School', refers to a group of artists working in and around the village of Barbizon, France during the mid-19th century.

While 'Hague School' relates to a group of artists who lived and worked in The Hague between 1860 and 1890.

You'll also find plenty of works with '[Country] School' in the title, such as 19th-Century English School. This can be a little woolly as it simply explains that the work probably originated in that country. 19th-Century French School, for instance, covers a remarkable array of styles and philosophies - from academic neo-classical works to impressionism.

And there are numerous examples of '19th-Century English School' landscapes that are actually based upon 17th-century Dutch models. So technically, to say 'Dutch School' would be more appropriate but it's confusing to refer to an English painting in such a way.

One of the most amusing uses of 'School' we've seen in recent years has to be 'Naive School' when referring to a work by an amateur artist with little or no training.

Clear as mud? Hopefully not! If you need to clarify any of our attributions, we're more than happy to help (in Plain English).

Further Examples

Erik Werenskiold
A work by Erik Werenskiold.

Julius Mante (Attributed)
A work of the period, which is probably by Julius Mante.

Nicolas Baudesson (School)
A work by an unknown hand, possibly a pupil of Nicolas Baudesson.

Jacob Van Ruisdael (Circle)
A work from the period of Jacob Van Ruisdael and showing his influence.

Claude Joseph Vernet (Follower)
A work executed in the style of Claude Joseph Vernet but not necessarily by a pupil.

Nicolaes Berchem (Follower)
A work executed in the style of Nicolaes Berchem but not necessarily by a pupil.

Dominique Barrière After Claude Lorrain
A work by French engraver Dominique Barrière, which is a copy of a painting by Claude Lorrain.

Peter Paul Rubens (After)
A copy of a painting by Peter Paul Rubens of any date.

18th-Century Sevillian School
A work produced in the 18th Century, probably in Seville.

Mid-19th-Century English School
A work produced in the mid-19th century, probably in England.

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