How not to waste money with your first Old Master?

4 things that make a painting worth investing

Quality

Surprisingly, but this material parameter is also applicable to a work of art. And it becomes less metaphorical when you know exactly what to look at and what are the signs of a great master.

  • Face. That seems easy, right? Well, I’m sure you would have no problem in deciding whether the eyes, and lips, and nose etc. look right and touch your soul. The thing that takes more experience from you is the face expression. To get what I mean here just look at some portraits by famous Renaissance or Baroque painters and then at some artworks of later centuries. It may even seem like people looked different at those times, right? Actually, that’s due to the manner of their depiction. It emphasised spiritual part and high senses in place of some earthly feelings and externalism of a subject matter. All that is worth describing in a separate article. Meanwhile, enlarge your knowledge with just simply studying the paintings by great masters to familiarise yourself with how a beautiful, no rubbish, face looks like.

Innovation

It was hard enough to choose the right heading here. Well, you all know this saying that «each vegetable has its season». And here it means that works by artists that were in line with their contemporary artistic trends are way more valuable than artworks of later followers.

Condition

Frankly speaking, if you buy an Old Master, it has definitely been restored or somehow manipulated throughout the length of its existence. Simply because it’s old and there is nothing permanent under the moon.

Previous owners changed frames, lost original ones, stored unwanted pieces in dusty closets — so many things could have happened to an artwork down the ages. And it likely came into the hands of restorers, even not once. And chances are will do it again after you buy it.

Backsides could tell you more that the painting itself

Provenance

To put it simple, provenance of the artwork is the roadmap of its former owners from the date of creation until today. Even for the world famous masterpieces it is often obscured at least in some part of their journey. And it requires a heck of a resources and luck to research the missing parts. So, most of the paintings on the market won’t have any indication of provenance or just some vague mention of a «former noble collection in France» (which, unless proved, equals to zero, btw).

My name is Marina Viatkina and I am an art collector, researcher and art advisor. You may read my other art-related articles, watch videos or reach out to discuss this blog and address your art enquiries here or on my website marinaviatkina.com.

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Marina Viatkina

Art | History Writer & Collecting Advisor → marinaviatkina.com | Founder of Smart Art — Art History Escape app → getsmartart.com