Sexy, spotless and sure: the three golden rules of desire

As far as a painting’s hammer price is concerned, other, less noble considerations matter a great deal more than the picture’s intrinsic quality.

Determining the market value of a picture can be a surprisingly heartless experience. There before you stands a fine portrait by a great artist, whose energy and creative genius you see emblazoned on the canvas with brushstrokes as fresh as the day they were painted. Yet you must judge the work not by its painterly strengths, but by the sum of its component parts.

The ABCs of value

• Rock-solid Attribution
There must be no doubts

• Is she a Beauty?

Sexy subjects (and cats) sell

• Country-house Condition
The less (re)touched, the better



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