Only art experts can add the designation “attributed to”

Numerous sellers at eBay use the designation “attributed to” and think thereby to have no responsibility towards less gifted buyers. But this append has only validity when it comes from an art expert. Otherwise the designation “attributed to” one can compare with confidences tricks aroused from the seller’s mind with the purpose of cheating the buyer who might or might not know much about art.

When a painting by professionals has the append “attributed to”, it means that the picture in question might come from the inscribed person. But very few attributed pictures coming from eBay can do this. Here the designation is used uncritical, if not uninhibited and at random, and, worst of all, by non-experts.

Important note about the issue “attributed” (the same as “ascribed to”:
Attributions are, in the nature of the case, only offered for artworks whose authorship is not otherwise already clearly marked or signalled. A signed painting is never "attributed", it is either considered genuine, or it is not. The signature itself forms the "attribution". And in the case of an artwork bearing what appears to be the artist's signature, only two judgments are possible: 1) that the signed artwork is genuine and therefore cannot be attributed, or 2) that the signed artwork is a fake and therefore cannot be attributed either to the artist whose name it bears.

Below you will find generally used statements from the worlds leading auction houses.

Attributed to:
“In our opinion probably a work by the artist”.

Attributed to:
“In our qualified opinion a work of the period of the artist which may be in whole or part the work of the artist”.

Read also Alan Bamberger’s deepened explanation about the expression: “attributed to”
Bamberger is an art consultant, advisor, author, and independent appraiser specializing in research, appraisal, and all business and market aspects of original works of art, artist manuscript materials, art-related documents, and art reference books. He has been selling art since 1979 and rare and scholarly art reference books since 1982, and has been consulting and appraising for artists, galleries, businesses, organizations and collectors since 1985.

Bamberger has written about the art business since 1983 in a number of the most known art magazines and professional papers.

© 2005