rubens Peter Paul Rubens expert, rubens paintng expert             JMW Turner the source

Art World’s Dirty Little Secret

Peter Paul Rubens expertise -what is involved?

forensics studies in art

art scientific analysis



art politics

It is clear that an art expert must tackle diversity!!!

What one should look for when acquiring artwork: Quality... originality... support... rarity... condition


Quality might best be defined as the ability of an artwork to rest comfortably within its format. This takes skill and practice on the part of the artist, and it is the 'master' with the greatest ability to present a bondable unity for the viewer who gains 'genius' status.

This is surely a two-way process by which the viewer must also have the harmony of spirit to appreciate the artwork.

Originality brings the artwork as close to a creator's genius as possible. Firstly the object must be done by the hand of the artist as opposed to a reproduction; and secondly, it should be as central as possible to one of the artist's most innovative periods.

The little oil sketch above would make the typical model for Rubens' Education of The Virgin. Rubens' assistances might turn such small prototypes into several large copies or versions. A novel example of reproduction is seen here on the cover of a dinner menu from R.M.S. Nieuw Amsterdam (Saturday, February 25 1922).

Support for an artist can come in many ways, some orthodox and others revolutionary. Orthodox support might come by way of: prizes, medals, and professional designations from institutions (for example: JMW Turner RA, or James Orrock RI, ROI). Institutions by virtue of their bureaucratic nature tend to reward the traditional artist as opposed to the most innovative one. There are many more traditional artists than true artistic geniuses.

The French impressionists won very little orthodox support, but were very revolutionary. Price listings for their work and the volume of literature about them attest to their posthumous importance. Turner was also revolutionary and this is what bolstered his fame; much more-so than the support he received from the Royal Academy (R. A).

Rarity is a result of limited supply and this in and of itself will increase the price of an artwork. If the art and historic value of an item is great, and the supply is limited, competition will make such work hard to find and more expensive.

Condition is a relative term. How old or fragile an artwork is will determine the amount of degradation or damage that is acceptable. Seldom does one find a Renaissance sculpture or a medieval picture unscathed. Conversely, experimentation with untested media has resulted in substantial conservation problems for modern works. 

                           Education of the Virgin, an early work







                                                                                              oil on canvas 13 x 10 in

Shortly after returning from Italy Rubens married Isabella Brandt in 1909. At this time he was doing religious works for the Jesuit Brothers of Antwerp. The portrait of St. Ann has a striking resemblance to Isabella – she has an
unmistakable pinched smile typical of portraits Rubens did of her during their few years of marriage.

The face of the virgin (above) mirrors certain studies the artist did from the 15th and 16th century after Roger van der Weyden and Heinrich Vogtherr.                                   

            Susanna and the Elders, a late work             


Susanna and the Elders, P.P. Rubens

The painting here is from the Rudolph Hermani estate. There is another replica in the Alte Pinakothek, but although it is considered the prototype of the two, oddly, it does not depict Rubens’ portrait of Susanna, his neigbour’s eldest daughter as seen here. Rubens’ neighbour was Daniel (Fourment), and Daniel was another character in the old biblical allegory from whence this drama was taken. Likely the names of these neighbours were responsible for inspiring this work in the first place, and it would follow that Rubens used Susanna as the model—he often used her as a model in his paintings. The portrait seen in Rubens’ famous ‘Chapeau de Paille’ (detail shown above) has the unusual facial features also seen on the young girl of Susanna and the Elders: “an attractive girl with a slender pointed face and large lively eyes.”[i] ‘Chapeau de Paille’ was also a portrait of his neigbour’s eldest daughter Susanna. What one might conclude from this is that the Hermani painting is likely the archetype painted by Rubens himself whereas the other is a studio copy.


[i] C.V. Wedgwood, The World of Rubens 1577-1640, (Time Incorporated, New York, 1967), 98.


general advice on collecting is available by contacting Robert and Graham Setters

Copies         Art World’s Dirty Little Secret


          - Is it portable?
          - Is it easy to store?
- Is it easy to protect; does it fit into a vault or safety deposit box?
          - Lifestyle; do you have a small or large home, apartment or country estate?

         - Consider the proposed use of your potential new treasure, and if it is suitable for it’s new location and purpose.
         - Shipping; will it require special packaging?
         - Longevity; is it subject to environmental degradation?

        - This is good for immediate resale.
        - Conversely, as an intermediate to long term investment, popularity is a negative factor (a fad soon passes).

        - Is the piece from an important collector, dealer, or collection? This helps to establish authenticity and gives the piece prestige. Although celebrity bestowed from a former owner may perk interest in the short term, memories of most famous people fade with time.
        - Has the piece sold through a major auction house and are they still willing to stand behind it?
        - Collect as much literature and history on a piece after acquisition; this will prove invaluable if resold.

        - The dealer motto: “buy low/sell dear”; if you choose the right dealer he/she will help you accomplish the same.
        - Predict popular trends before they become full blown.

        - Is the piece important enough to interest major dealers, museums, or major auction galleries?
        - If an item is part of a collection, lesser important pieces are acceptable additions.

        - Is this easily established?
        - Have similar items sold at major auction galleries?

        - Recognizable items (antiques) are easier to classify; and therefore, often develop into unquestioned commodities.
 This is helpful for authentication but may suggest the piece is not all that rare.

        - Is the item attractive to nations with strong economies relative to ones own?  Such demand can factor into the costs of acquisition.

        - This is important but is relative to age, material, and rarity. 

 If your object is aesthetically appealing, then your potential new treasure will command greater appreciation.
       - Has your potential treasure been produced by a skilled artisan, craftsman or talented artist?
       - Decorative quality increases demand and raises price.

       - Historic (appreciated by scholars and connoisseurs)
       - Heritage and sentimental value
       - Educational value
       - Cross-cultural appreciation

       - Negative and positive publicity
      - Ivory collecting is a good example. One must consider the legal consequences of international transport of prohibited items and material. Although an important historic carving medium, recent negative attitudes towards its use have been very influential politically and socially; which in turn has affected its desirability as a collectable. Gun collecting is affected likewise.
      - Impressionist paintings, the Art Deco style, Ming porcelain... recognize how publicity has reinforced the popularity of these and other collectibles.

      - Heirloom
      - Heritage
appraisal and art authentication of European and American Master paintings, art appraisal, art value, art authentication, fine art appraisal, art appraiser, fine art appraiser, estate appraisal, estate appraiser, painting value, painting appraisal, painting appraiser, online art appraisal, online art appraiser, online fine art appraisal

    Rescuing Turner: A New Age of Art Discovery: r malcolm setters / graham setters

     Institutional evolution          connoisseurship         Art/science          Forensics

                                                                                           Terms and conditions J.M.W. Turner
                                                                                      Site criticism is appreciated at Penticton
 © setters 2003, Rescuing Turner: The Art Project &
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