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Article

Bruce Tattersall

revised by Natasha Degen

The arena in which a buyer seeks to acquire, either directly or through an agent, a particular work of art for reasons of aesthetics, connoisseurship, investment, or speculation. The historical beginnings of the art market lie in patronage. With the growth of Collecting for aesthetic and worldly motives rather than religious ones came a corresponding growth in dealing, with the dealer acting as middleman as the number of artists and collectors increased and spread geographically. The dealer, often an artist, discovered and promoted other artists and persuaded collectors to buy at a price determined by him. His role was strengthened by the 16th-century distinction between artist and artisan and the concept of a Masterpiece. This precept, allied to a growing antiquarian interest, reinforced the position of the dealer as arbiter of taste, and his status was further enhanced as great collections were amassed and disposed of in the 16th and 17th centuries. During this period collecting became popular with the middle classes and the art market expanded accordingly; the sale of art by ...

Article

Robert Cumming

Act of assembling groups of objects. Any account of collecting works of art has to cover a very wide field of enquiry. Its history is often obscure and complicated, and many issues such as aesthetics, finance, psychology, and indeed the definition of the phenomenon must also be considered, including how culturally widespread collecting is. It can be identified in most of the great civilizations throughout history, from China and Japan to the Islamic and Western worlds, and in each instance there are many features in common. Although some of the general points made in this article apply to all forms of collecting, it concentrates on the example provided by the West. Collecting in other civilizations is discussed under the appropriate geographic or cultural headings. There are also sections discussing collecting in most modern country surveys.

In any discussion of collecting, one of the first problems to be dealt with is that of evidence: what did a particular collection contain, when, and where? Most collections, however painstakingly built up, are dispersed after the death of the collector, sometimes in spite of the conditions of a bequest. The important collection of paintings and sculpture of ...

Article

Enrico Castelnuovo, Jaynie Anderson, Stephen B. Little, Christine M. E. Guth, S. N. Chaturvedi and Anna Tummers

Term given to the technique or art of recognizing works of art. In the Western world this particularly involves the evaluation, distinction, and appreciation of the work’s quality and, above all, the ability to determine the time and place of its execution and, as far as possible, the identity of the artist. A lack of signatures, precise documentation, and other information concerning most figurative works has meant that the establishment and development of criteria and classification and thus the practice of attribution have been highly dependent on the development of collecting and of an art market. Connoisseurship is not an exclusively Western phenomenon, however: it has evolved alongside the development of collections of art in such countries as China, where the role of the connoisseur was established as early as the Bronze Age.

Enrico Castelnuovo

In the earliest literature on the history and appreciation of art, dating to Classical times and then the Renaissance (...