Journal of Cultural Economics

, Volume 43, Issue 1, pp 57–95 | Cite as

“The Master of …”: creating names for art history and the art market

  • Kim OosterlinckEmail author
  • Anne-Sophie Radermecker
Original Article


The value of a painting is influenced above all by the artist who created it and his reputation. Painters nowadays are easy to identify and are used to signing their artworks. But what about those whose names have not survived the test of time? This paper contributes to the understanding of art valuation and art brands on the auction market. It focuses on a particular subset of anonymous artists labelled with so-called provisional names (“Master of …”). After considering the origins and reception of the practice of creating names for unrecorded artists, we empirically investigate the market behaviour of this niche segment. Based on comparative price indexes and hedonic regressions, we show that masters with provisional names have not only become autonomous brand names that are highly valued by the art market; they also outperformed named artists between 1955 and 2015. In the second phase, we analyse the provisional-name linked elements valued by the market. We find that art market participants pay attention to the creator of the provisional name, its long-term recognition and market visibility, and the typology of the names.


Market for Old Master paintings Masters with provisional names Market value Brand names Price indexes Hedonic pricing model Valuing process 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management, Centre Emile BernheimUniversité libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Fonds National de la Recherche Scientifique (FNRS), Department of History, Arts and ArcheologyUniversité libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium

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