An artwork title is a word or phrase used to identify and distinguish a particular work of art from others. These titles can be descriptive, indicative of the content or theme of the work, or they can be more abstract and open to interpretation. Names for works can be designated by the artists themselves, or by curators or other third parties, and can affect reception and interpretation.
Artworks were not typically given a proper title in the ancient world, the identification of something like a cult image being self-evident in a particular sociocultural context, akin to the concept of the Poor Man's Bible. They were sometimes inscribed by epigraphy with the signature of the artist and/or the subject of the piece such as a titulus, but this was not a true title. Subsequent art history, beginning with Pliny's chapters that gave common names to works such as by Praxiteles and continuing to scholarship of medieval Christian art and that of non-Western cultures, tends to refer to religious works after the epithets or iconography of figures or events depicted in the piece. Proper titles as such only emerged in a Western context in the 18th century, with Enlightenment cataloging of the first museums and the first exhibitions.
In modern times, titles of artworks are often chosen by the artist, but they can also have been assigned by galleries, private collectors, printmakers, art dealers, or curators, this historical process being the subject of a book by Ruth Yeazell. The onomastician Adrian Room compiled an encyclopedic dictionary in this area. John C. Welchman has written Invisible Colors as a critical history of modern titles, after an aphorism by Duchamp.