View Full Version : Starting Price for a Painting at an auction in 1890s1900s

08-09-2011, 03:12 AM
Hi all,

I was just wondering what the price of a oil-based portrait of an unknown lady would be in the 1890s1905. I've been researching the prices of that time, but to no avail.

It's a painting that was painted in the early 1500s by an unknown artist of an unknown lady. The history of the painting is vague in that all they know is that it was painted in the early 1500s and that it was said to have been stolen from a ship docked in a port in Spain in around 1520. In general the portrait is quite simple. The setting is a estate auction sometime in the 1890s1905. I just need an approximate amount to start the bidding.

08-09-2011, 03:16 AM
Does it look nice?

That's the burning question for paintings by uknown artists.

and how big is it?

08-09-2011, 03:19 AM
I was thinking a medium sized portrait (slightly bigger than 13" diagonally), and looks something like http://images.google.com/imgres?q=portrait+1515+spanish+women&hl=en&sa=X&gbv=2&biw=1157&bih=642&tbm=isch&tbnid=wy9uuESoT86n8M:&imgrefurl=http://dxsuperpremiumart.blogspot.com/&docid=6PDVxEl2c8kGiM&w=600&h=758&ei=VRI_TsLPIOPViALA3pzDBg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=912&vpy=247&dur=4457&hovh=252&hovw=200&tx=119&ty=141&page=1&tbnh=158&tbnw=120&start=0&ndsp=18&ved=1t:429,r:11,s:0. Nicely preserved, but nothing special, since the auction also has works by more famous artists.

08-10-2011, 04:46 AM
Doing some other research a couple of weeks ago, I ran across a newspaper story about a rather disappointing estate auction of an art dealer's paintings in New York in 1903. That could give you some ballpark prices (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1903-03-01/ed-1/seq-27/;words=PAINTINGS+paintings+Auction+auctioneer+pain ted+Ichenhauser+painting).

Then, as now, the price for artwork was rather arbitrary. Art is worth whatever you can convince a buyer it's worth. You have some artistic license to set the price for your painting anywhere from (by my very rough guess) $20 to $20,000, depending on what your story needs.

If you want to find some better examples of painting prices, the Victoria and Albert Museum has a page with resources for researching the provenance of art (http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/study-guide-art-auction-sales-sales-catalogues-price-guides/). Some of the publications it lists are probably to be found in Google Books and archive.org.

08-10-2011, 10:21 AM
You could also try contacting some of the older auction houses like Sothebys to see if they'd give you some ideas. It's definitely worth looking into.