Knowing your s…tuff: Connoisseurship in Art and other Fine Things

While researching a painting for an appraisal I began to remember a discussion on connoisseurship in one of my appraisal courses. What is it? How do you obtain it? Can you learn it? Can it even be taught? These questions seem to be an ongoing concern in the professional appraisal community. I believe that it is generally agreed that, as professional appraisers, we need to have it. Hence, back to…What is it? 

I checked with Webster, no not the inquisitive young man from the 1980’s television show, but Merriam-Webster. (“Connoisseur.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 2 Aug. 2013.


Webster defines connoisseurship as:

One who understands the details, technique, or principles of an art and is competent to act as a critical judge.

Or ~

One who enjoys with discrimination and appreciation of subtleties.

Okay then, that clears things up. Doesn’t it? 

As professional appraisers we certainly enjoy things with discrimination and the appreciation of subtleties as much as the next guy, but is this enough to complete our assignment? As professionals we are held to a higher standard. As you can see in the first definition the word competent seems appear out of nowhere. Again turning to Webster. (“Competent.” Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 5 Aug. 2013)


Having requisite or adequate ability or qualities.

 This word shows up seemingly everywhere from USPAP to the ISA and IPAV. And, as I am not too familiar with the ASA & AAA, I will presume that it shows up there too!

 So where does this leave us? We need to understand the details, techniques and the principles of how a particular item is produced and apply the proper methodology, knowledge and experience when applying connoisseurship as a part of our valuations.

whyskey cigar

 In the meantime let’s just enjoy our vices be them art, wine, cigars, single malts or cars with discrimination and appreciation of all their subtleties.

 Until next time… Síochán (Peace)

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