The Labor Market in the Seventeenth-Century Italian Art Sector
We analyze the labor market for painters in Baroque Rome using unique panel data on primary sales of still lifes, portraits, genre paintings, landscapes and figurative paintings. In line with the traditional hierarchy of genres, average price differentials between them were high. We identify supply and demand factors related to prices of paintings. The panel dimension of the dataset and its matched painter-patron nature allow us to evaluate the extent to which price heterogeneity is related to unmeasured differences among painters or patrons. Most of the inter-genre price differential is explained by the variation in average individual heterogeneity across genres: this suggests that the market was rather competitive and allocated artists between artistic genres to the point of equalizing the marginal return of each genre. We also explain residual price differences in terms of efficiency wage, signalling and incentive mechanisms to induce effort in the production of artistic quality.
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