Renaissance and Reformation Art Market
Michael North
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 September 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0220


This overview concentrates on newer studies on art markets and on research that has not yet received attention in this context. This is not a résumé of recent art market research in general; rather, it is limited to the greater Renaissance. That is why Italy and the Low Countries are the areas that are of central importance. Of late, interest has centered on cultural transfer, that is, the diffusion and reception of the Renaissance and humanism in, and even beyond, Europe. In addition, studies of the Renaissance emphasis its social and economic location and, thus, the question of patrons, the art market, and the demand for art. Although this field has established its own research tradition in the past fifteen to twenty years, the dominant scholarship, stressing intellectual history or aesthetic approaches, has not taken adequate account of the development. Various sociological approaches have been tested for the reception of Italian Renaissance painting. We may distinguish here between macro-sociological, micro-sociological, and (macro-)economic approaches. The macro sociologists study the development of European society and associate particular artistic phenomena, such as the Italian Renaissance, with it. The micro-sociological approach, in contrast, places the material conditions under which art was produced at center stage. This approach includes, among others, the study of painters’ training, guild organization, and the relationship between painter and patron. Finally, the economic approach seeks to examine the links between a period’s artistic production and economic cycles. In all three approaches, the art market plays a role, although the focus could be on production and reception of art.

General Overviews

The history of the art market offers a promising field for collaboration among art historians, historians, economic historians, and economists. Before the upsurge of interest in cultural history in the late 1980s, debates in this area were mainly focused on the changing relationships between the arts and the state of the economy. In the last decade, this has given place to many more new questions, which are addressed in North 2003, Cavaciocchi 2002, and de Marchi and van Miegroet 2000. These volumes and encyclopedia entries deal with topics that include the demand for art, analyzing the range of art objects purchased by households and social clusters of households to reconstruct society’s demand for art; the conditions of artistic creativity and the communication between artistic centers; and the dynamics of art markets and their potential for innovation.

  • Cavaciocchi, Simonetta, ed. Economia e arte secc, XII–XVIII: Atti della trentatreesima settimana di studi, 30 aprile–4 maggio 200. Florence: Le Monnier, 2002.

    The volume offers a broad panorama on European art markets and art production.

  • de Marchi, Neil, and Hans J. van Miegroet. “Rules versus Play in Early Modern Art Markets.” Louvain Economic Review 66.2 (2000): 145–165.

    The authors bring together historical evidence and economic theory of markets.

  • de Marchi, Neil, and Hans J. van Miegroet. Mapping, Markets for Paintings in Europe, 1450–1750. Studies in European Urban History 6. Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2006.

    In this edited volume, the authors provide evidence concerning the marketing of paintings’ they focus on market practices, institutions, and connoisseurship.

  • North, Michael. “Art Markets.” In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History. Vol. 1, Accounting and Bookkeeping: Contract Labor and the Indenture System. Edited by Joel Mokyr, 167–174. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

    North provides a concise overview of the latest studies on European art markets.

  • North, Michael, and David Ormrod, eds. Markets for Art, 1400–1800. Seville, Spain: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Sevilla, 1998.

    North and Ormrod provide an overview of art market research in Europe and outline further perspectives.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.