In his will, signed September 13, 1968, Rothko bequeathed to his second wife, Mary Alice Beistle (1921–1970), the Manhattan brownstone in which they lived at 118 East 95th Street and the contents thereof, which included the current work. It was therefore neither included in Rothko’s inventory of 1968/1969 nor assigned an estate/inventory number. During the execution of Mary Alice Rothko’s will and the assessment of her estate, the work was mistakenly dated 1953, based on a misreading of the inscription “MARK ROTHKO 1958” in white paint on the back of the mount (fig. 1). Subsequently, the work was assigned the identifier “1953 MAR [Mary Alice Rothko],” to which it has been referred since. The inscription on the back of the mount was likely either written by Rothko after the work was mounted or was transcribed by whoever mounted the work (the Krushenick brothers Nicholas and John were Rothko’s favored mounters in the 1950s) from an inscription written by Rothko on the back of the sheet. Based on the inscription and a stylistic comparison with similar works, this work was almost certainly made in 1958.
1. Back of mount of [Untitled] showing inscription in white paint.
Mark Rothko: Works on Paper will ultimately document approximately 2,600 works from public and private collections worldwide. Cataloging is ongoing, and works and information will be added to the site during the coming years.