Colyn de Coter and the first signed paintings in Brussels

The earliest examples of signed paintings in Brussels are those of Colyn de Coter.

The (very rare) signatures found in fifteenth-century paintings were not written in the handwriting of the artist but in calligraphic letters that formed a decorative element in the composition. They were added on the frame or in the painting or perhaps on the hem of a garment. An example is Colyn’s Virgin Crowned by Angels. The impression is given that it was not the artist who signed the work but the work itself that is declaring its paternity: “Colyn de Coter pingit me in B… Bruccelle” (Colyn de Coter painted me in Brussels in the region of Brabant). Brussels is mentioned explicitly: the artist was proud of his city, where he was probably a well-known figure. He ran a studio that numbered many assistants and was involved in a wide range of activities, such as the execution of painted wings for large sculpted retables, and cartoons for tapestries.

It was necessary to wait for Bernard van Orley and the painters of the next generation for signatures to appear a little more frequently in paintings.