The Extraordinary Art Critic Roger de Piles (1635-1709): An Empirical Analysis of his Rankings and Sale Prices
Roger de Piles (1635-1709) was a French art critic who decomposed the style and ability of each artist into areas of composition, drawing, color and expression, rating each on a 20 point scale. Based on evidence from two datasets that together span from 1740 to the present, this paper shows that de Piles’ four characteristics are each both currently and historically correlated with prices achieved at auction. The effect of de Piles’ drawing characteristic on price has steadily decreased over the period 1736-1960 while the effect of de Piles’ color characteristic appears to have increased over the same period. De Piles’ overall ratings have also withstood the test of a very long period of time, with estimates indicating that the works of his higher-rated artists achieved a greater return than his lower rated artists. The annual returns of all artists that he rated achieved comparable returns to other art indices.
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