The Auctioneer’s Genre: Digital Approaches to Category Construction and the Rhetoric of the 18th Century Art Market

Guest Lecture

Oct 17 4:30 – 5:30 pm
106 McCormick Hall
106 McCormick Hall

What makes a painting “British”? What makes an artist an “Old Master”? We know that these are highly constructed categories, their definitions less a function historical fact than of rhetoric and the position of the one doing the describing. As part of a larger project in the history of the art market, we combine close and distant reading techniques to examine a large corpus of auction catalogs. What simulation and statistical modeling gets right when trying to chart these categories, as well as what it gets wrong, give crucial insights into the historicity of these modern categories, and demonstrates how the history of the art market can be about much more than price alone.