Statistically speaking, in an average year, over 10,000 Old Master paintings priced between $10,000 – 20,000,000 are offered at public auction worldwide – this is taking into account smaller regional auction houses such as Drouot, Lempertz, Artcurial, Tajan, Dorotheum, Koller, Bonhams as well as international powerhouses Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Some works are unattributed or by minor painters, but reliably there are paintings and drawings by the so-called top tier Old Master painters (e.g. Titian, Rubens, Pontormo, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Turner and Delacroix, to name but a few) available. In 2019, paintings by Cimabue and Caravaggio surfaced out of the blue in France.
Meanwhile, a large volume of works are sold privately through Old Master galleries. The sales info is not made public but you can get an idea of the market by attending an art fair like TEFAF Maastricht or visiting the gallery and making personalised enquiries.
Perhaps the real issue is a matter of money. At the top end, old master paintings may actually be more valuable than any work by a contemporary or modern artist. The record price for a work of art at auction is, after all, for an Old Master.
We source globally from private collections, colleagues in the art world and directly at auction. Almost all the works we source are in free circulation, which means that regardless of where you are, we will be able to ship the artwork to you without the uncertainty or extra time commitment for obtaining export papers.
We jotted down some thoughts in our guide for new collectors. Some of our clients exclusively buy from dealers, others buy both from dealers and auction houses. Ultimately, it is a personal preference and there is no harm in trying out all three!
An Old Master can be a great work of art and still not have a firm attribution. Example of an undisputed masterpiece include the Portrait of Luca Pacioli in the Museo di Capodimonte, Naples, which is sometimes attributed to Jacopo de’ Barberi.
It is not uncommon that some 14th – 17th century artists are referred to as “the Master of …” A familiar example is Robert Campin of Tournai, one of the earliest practitioners of painting in oil, who was known as the ‘Master of Flémalle’ before it became the consensus that Campin was his real identity.
Broadly speaking, however, the fame of the artist will affect the value of the work. Let’s take the example of the painters associated with the Barbizon School. A landscape painting by Corot is most likely more valuable than a similar landscape by Charles François Daubigny or Narcisse-Virgile Diaz de La Peña. Innovation and originality are also important drivers of value, Lucas Cranach the Elder is more highly prized than his son and ditto Pieter Breugel.
Wire fraud is a real issue and a recent case involving a London dealer and the Rijksmuseum has drawn attention to this. We send invoices to clients with extra protection and strongly recommend that they call us to confirm the wiring instructions to ensure that the payment is made to the correct entity.
To be honest we have never been put in this position. Typically, the negotiation of a deal can take a few days, if not longer during which the buyer has plenty of time to contemplate his or her offer, and in some cases, see the work of art in situ at their home. The moment we reach an agreement on price, we will issue the invoice and payment is due. It is not unusual, however, if a collector wishes to trade something in their existing collection as whole or part payment for something they would rather have – we can certainly help.
Yes. We guarantee authenticity and good title at the time of sale.
Practical questions about owning a picture
There is a range of opinion on this. Ideally a painting is hung in its original frame, though this is a highly unusual situation. We will recommend framers who can either provide an excellent replica or an antique frame of the right period and country of origin. Some collectors like to frame paintings as they were framed by historic collectors, for example Northern seventeenth-century paintings are conventionally framed in simple black models but sometimes in eighteenth-century French types which reflect the collecting taste of later great collectors of Dutch and Flemish paintings such as Catherine the Great.
Oil paintings are relatively unaffected by light conditions, though this is not true of works on paper. UV protection on both windows and the glass helps mitigate the effects of sunlight, but the safest way to protect drawings and pastels is to keep them away from natural light, or indeed any bright light. Humidity is a serious consideration for paintings, especially panels which will move with fluctuations in humidity causing cracks and the flaking of the paint surface. Panels are especially vulnerable to damage in dry conditions and so it is recommended that humidity stays above 40%. This is managed by climate control systems in museums but is hard to maintain in domestic situations. Portable humidifiers are now quite effective.
We regularly work with art restorers around the world and can recommend specialists in general care, cleaning, restoration of damages, lining of old or torn canvases and the conservation of panels. This is one of our services which we can provide even if we have not been involved in the acquisition of the work of art in question.
Yes! we can provide written valuations of works in our area of expertise for insurance, estate, collateral or just general curiosity. Learn more here or get in touch now.