Appraising Art

How much is my painting worth? This is one of the most common questions that we get asked. Unfortunately, the answer is never easy or immediate. With television shows like Antiques Roadshow, people expect that we can tell them a value with very little information and research involved. The truth is that to properly appraise a painting, research and time are essential.

AlexanderLoemansThe first thing that we have to establish is what kind of value are you looking for?
If you are interested in insuring the artwork, we will explore the replacement value. For the replacement value we will research the retail market to establish a value. The retail value is typically the highest value in the marketplace. We also use the replacement value for insurance claims by individuals or companies that are not involved in the art and antiques trade.

If you are interested in selling the artwork, we will explore the fair market value. For fair market value we will research the auction market to establish a value. The fair market value is typically lower than the retail value. We also use the fair market value for estates, divorce, and charitable donations. Since fair market value has tax implications, the IRS has defined it as “the price that property would sell for on the open market. It is the price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing seller, with neither being required to act, and both having reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts.”

After determining the type of appraisal you are interested in, the next step is to determine the type of artwork you have. It takes a qualified professional to be able to properly identify the artist, age, quality, and condition of any given artwork. All of these factors are taken into account to properly value an artwork.

To identify the artist of a Alexis Fournier Signaturepainting the first thing to do is look for a signature. Signatures are typically located on the lower corners, but can also be found on the verso, along the stretcher, or hidden within the composition. Many times an artwork will not be signed at all. If you are able to find a signature, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was painted by that artist. Paintings by well known artists hold tremendous value, and many times we find that paintings which bear the name of a famous artist turn out to be modern copies or period fakes. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to hire a qualified professional to help you determine what you have. If you are unable to find a signature that doesn’t necessarily mean the artwork has no value. There are a lot of famous artists who did not sign their work.

Another factorDSC02147 that is explored when looking at an artwork is in determining its age. Often times, the back of a painting reveals more than the front. The age and oxidation of the canvas and stretcher as well as the nails that were used to stretch the canvas are all taken into account when analyzing an artwork. Through our experience, we have uncovered paintings that were attached to an older canvas and stretcher to give the appearance of old age. The history of the painting, which is called the provenance is very important information. If a painting can be accurately traced back to its origins, it can greatly affect its value.


Edouard Cortes - MadeleineThe quality of a painting can seem subjective, but if the artist is established, the market will typically show what type of work from the artist commands the highest value. The art market is vast and large and has spanned centuries. There are hundreds of thousands of artists who have a strong and determined market. Some artists are known for landscapes while others are known for portraits. It is the job of a qualified art professional to determine which type of the artists oeuvre is the most desirable in the marketplace.




Damage+Claude+Monet+cx1The condition of a painting has an incredible impact in terms of value. A painting may appear to be in good condition, but with a more thorough examination may uncover poor restoration, relining, or other factors that can alter its value. A trained art professional should be able to have a general idea on an artworks condition from a careful visual inspection. In some cases the artwork will have to be examined by a professionally trained conservationist to properly assess its condition.



The variables that were explored are only a small glimpse into the art appraisal process. With each painting being a unique work of art we often times take a different approach for each artwork we appraise. There is no guideline that a professional follows to appraise an artwork. These are just some things that are commonly explored in helping to determine the value of an artwork.

Please contact us with any questions.

Hiro Fine Art LLC