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Article

Molly K. Dorkin

[art consultant]

Paid adviser employed by collectors to recommend and facilitate the purchase of works of art. There is a long history of recruitment of art experts by wealthy patrons for advisery purposes. In the 18th century art historians such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann were actively advising leading collectors like Albani family §(2). In the early 20th century the English dealer Joseph Duveen earned a knighthood for his philanthropic efforts on behalf of British galleries. Enlisted by the so-called American Robber Barons for advice in forming collections, Duveen brokered the sale of many notable Old Masters from English aristocrats to American millionaires, including Henry Clay Frick, J. P. Morgan, Henry E. Huntington, and Andrew Mellon. Their collections ultimately formed the nuclei of many great American museums. Duveen’s contemporary Bernard Berenson was an American scholar and expert on Renaissance painting who turned his hand to art advising. Berenson assisted Isabella Stewart Gardner in forming her renowned collection of Renaissance art. His legacy as an academic is controversial thanks to his habit of accepting payment in exchange for favourable ...

Article

Molly K. Dorkin

Prior to the 20th century, the attribution of works of art was not governed by rigid regulations, and art dealers and auctioneers assigned attributions based purely on aesthetic grounds. Works were attributed to the artist whose manner they most closely resembled, but they were not further distinguished on the basis of quality; as a result, many paintings purchased as Renaissance masterpieces in the 18th or 19th century have since been downgraded to studio works or even much later pastiches.

Historically, the patrons who commissioned Old Masters placed a premium on subject-matter rather than originality, and popular narratives were requested by multiple patrons, creating conditions in which the demand for copies could flourish (see Copy). Popular compositions were often reproduced many times: by the master himself, an apprentice in his workshop, or even a later follower or imitator. A master trained his apprentices to approximate his manner as closely as possible, and sold the finished work under his own name. In some cases a master would paint the most important part of a work (such as the faces of the central figures) before delegating the rest to apprentices. Through the 19th century, pupils at prestigious institutions were taught by making copies of works by acknowledged masters. Many pieces, particularly drawings (which for much of their history were working tools, rather than art objects), were unsigned. Damaged or incomplete works of art were subjected to extensive restoration or reworking by later artists, a process that can cloud the question of attribution....

Article

Molly K. Dorkin

An expert with a specialization in a distinct category of fine or decorative arts or other collectables at an auction house, responsible for researching Attributions and setting pre-sale estimates. Specialized auctions of works of art were recorded in Amsterdam as early as 1608, when they emerged as a subcategory of after-death estate sales. It remains unclear whether or not items were appraised for value by dedicated appraisers, forerunners of modern-day auction house specialists, in order to set estimates prior to the sales.

The Auction as a sale process reached England from Holland in 1676, and the first auction of paintings in London took place in 1682. It was widely accepted that the paintings offered at auctions were luxury goods rather than masterpieces, and the ‘specialists’ in charge of sales bestowed attributions with a generous hand. By the end of the 17th century more educated and discerning specialists had begun to emerge, including Edward Davis and Parry Walton (...

Article

Bonhams  

Molly K. Dorkin

[Jones and Bonham; Bonhams & Brooks; Bonhams & Butterfields; Bonhams & Goodman]

Auction house established in London 1793 by William Charles Bonham, a book dealer (also recorded as Walter Bonham), and George Jones, from a gallery founded by Thomas Dodd (1771–1850), a dealer in antiquarian prints. Bonhams originally specialized in sales of prints in the 18th and 19th centuries, at which time the market was robust. By the 19th century Bonhams was also holding sales of antiques, which were advertised in the London press alongside similar offerings from Christie’s and Phillips. In the 1820s Dodd and fellow print dealer Martin Colnaghi catalogued the print collection belonging to Horace Walpole prior to its sale. Dodd and Colnaghi also catalogued the 50,000 works in the collection of Francis Douce for their donation to the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. By the 1850s Jones’s son Henry and Bonham’s son George had taken over the business, which became known as Jones and Bonham. Paintings had been offered in their sales alongside print collections since the 1840s....

Article

Joseph R. Givens

The sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002) developed cultural capital theory as way to examine the influence of intangible resources on the phenomena of social reproduction and social mobility. He described a society of competing classes, arranged in a hierarchy of prestige. The classes are composed of individual agents who attempt to climb the socio-economic ladder by maximizing the use of capital resources, which include both material objects of symbolic value and intangible attributes that imply prestige and power. Bourdieu identified four types of capital: economic, social, symbolic, and cultural. Economic capital represents one’s financial resources, social capital consists of one’s social support system, symbolic capital describes one’s prestige, and cultural capital includes the knowledge, values, and skills that support an understanding of cultural relations and cultural artefacts. The forms of capital are inequitably distributed among classes, and one form of capital can be converted to another. Since the value of capital is defined by social relations within a specific field, agents strategize the best way to leverage their capital for maximum gain of the valued capital within that field....

Article

Molly K. Dorkin

The world’s oldest auction house, founded in Vienna in April 1707 by Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor (reg 1705–11). Originally called the Versatz- und Fragamt zu Wien (‘The Pawn and Query Bureau of Vienna’), the firm moved in 1777 to the site of an old monastery, the Dorotheerkloster, from which the name ‘Dorotheum’ is derived. By the end of the 19th century the premises were outdated, so Emperor Francis-Joseph I (reg 1848–1916) commissioned the architect Emil von Förster (1838–1909) to design a suitably grand building. This new structure, called the Palais Dorotheum, was completed and formally opened in 1901 by the Emperor, in whose honour the central hall was named. In the early years of the 20th century the Dorotheum introduced many innovations to their auctioneering process, such as the division of sales into categories by object type. The first unique categories, introduced in 1900, were art and numismatics....

Article

Molly Dorkin

Place where works of art are displayed. In a commercial gallery, works of art are displayed for the purposes of sale (for information on non-commercial art galleries see Display of art and Museum, §I). Historically, artworks were commissioned by patrons directly from an artist and produced in his workshop. In the Netherlands, the economic boom following the conclusion of the Eighty Years’ War with Spain (1648) led to rising demand for art. Patrons began buying from dealers, some of whom produced illustrated catalogues. Antwerp became the centre of the art world. Galleries for the display and viewing of art appeared in paintings by Teniers family, §2 and Bruegel family, §3, although these were private not commercial spaces, or imaginary constructions.

The Paris Salon, which had been organized by the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture since 1667, was opened to the public for the first time in ...

Article

Molly K. Dorkin

[Messrs Phillips & Son; Phillips, Son & Neale; Phillips de Pury & Company]

Auction house founded in London in 1796 by Harry Phillips (d 1840), formerly senior clerk to James Christie (1730–1803). Phillips’ inaugural sale of household furniture was held on 23 April 1796. The auctioneer soon distinguished himself by combining the skills he had learnt from observing Christie’s methods with a talent for ceremony and showmanship. Many of his innovations, such as holding lavish evening receptions for his clients and translating the business of sales into theatre, are widely employed by auction houses today. In his first year of business Phillips oversaw 12 auctions. He was soon charged with selling some of the most distinguished collections of the era, including those of Marie Antoinette, Stanisław II Poniatowski of Poland, and Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1823 Phillips was commissioned to auction the collection at Fonthill Abbey, a sale originally offered to Christie’s. Instead, it was Phillips who conducted an epic 30-day sale of the contents of the house. Some 7200 people attended the pre-sale viewing. Phillips also presided over the only auction ever to be held in Buckingham Palace, in ...

Article

Two circulation models that constitute the art market: a primary market that structures the initial launch of an artist’s work and a secondary, or resale, market. Primary and secondary markets exist within the context of the Art market, in which works of art are exchanged for money or barter, allowing for creative value to be measured against other investment alternatives.

The art market emerged from the cultural and economic changes after the Reformation, especially in the northern Netherlands. When art became divorced from religious worship, the tradition of ecclesiastical patronage ceased. During this same period, there was an expansion of the Protestant mercantile class, who became the new art buyers. For the new bourgeois middle class, art served as a symbol of social achievement. Artists began to challenge their roles as mere craftsmen and demand that their creations be considered intellectual property. Founded in 1648, the Académie Royale de Peinture et Sculpture (...