Looking back in art history, paintings weren’t always titled. The titling of artwork came into being when images began to widely circulate in public viewing spaces & as the art market grew. However, many of the paintings that hang in our museums were not named by the artist, but by notaries, dealers & printmakers, critics, friends of the artist & even members of the viewing public. Artists didn’t typically title their work until the 19th century, & even those who tried to title them haven’t always succeeded. James McNeill Whistler named his most famous painting “Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 1”, but his work is commonly known to most as “Whistler’s Mother”. When the artist titled his painting, his intent was to direct the viewer’s eyes first to the abstract pattern of its tones, & secondarily to the picture’s subject, his mother. This would seem to prove that titling a piece of art isn’t an exact science ~ James McNeill Whistler assumed the viewing public wouldn’t care about the identity of the portrait when in fact, they were intrigued by the figure in his painting.
In earlier periods there wasn’t always need for titles, such as when an artist painted a commissioned work for an elite patron. The same may be true today when an artist is commissioned to paint a portrait or other subject matter that is personal or only has meaning to the collector. So there are instances where a title is not always needed or missed.