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Just as styles of handwriting can be distinguished, so can the styles of different artists' work in different periods. The style or manner in which a painting has been produced can be described, associated with similar examples and categorised.

Often, when there is no documentary evidence to suggest who was responsible for a particular painting, an attribution is established on stylistic grounds (see the entry for Connoisseur). Stylistic analysis is usually employed in conjunction with other forms of technical and historical research.