Disappearing Auction Catalog Descriptions

Have fellow appraisers noted how many auction catalog object descriptions have been disappearing over the past several years.  It appears the major houses are relying more upon a basic header and image while forgoing any sort of detailed object description.

I think it is a combination of better images now in a manner being more descriptive in revealing decorative elements with less reliance on written descriptions, perhaps to a lesser extend due liability issues, or perhaps non standardized descriptive language and confusing terminology. Time and editing/review could also be a factor, given the more time spent on an object, the more expense the auction house has in selling the object.

Below is an example of two Newport Rhodes Island Townsend attributed fall/slant front desks (re my comment above on confusing terminology, the first desk is listed as slant front while the second is fall front, not really a big deal but it is inconsistent. The 2017 has a heading, minor notes, measurements, but no object detail descriptions. While the 2007 desk has the heading and measurement along with an object detail description, such as shell carved block drawers, molded base, ogee bracket feet, etc (see bolded text in second block quote).

This is of course a decorative art example, but I think we are seeing the same thing in fine art as well.

Sotheby's listing for a Newport Rhode Island Desk, 2017
Very Fine and Rare Chippendale Carved and Figured Mahogany Slant-Front Desk, attributed to John or Jonathan Townsend, Newport, Rhode Island, circa 1770

indistinct chalk inscription to the underside of the third long drawer.

Height 42 in. by Width 43 3/4 in. by Depth 23 in.

Sotheby's listing for a Newport Rhode Island Desk, 2017
An Important Chippendale Shell-Carved and Figured Mahogany Slant-Front Desk, Attributed to John Townsend, Newport, Rhode Island, 1760-1790

the hinged molded lid opening to a writing compartment with two tiers of shell-caved blocked drawers centering a hinged shell-carved prospect door, the case below with four graduated molded drawers, on a molded base and ogee bracket feet. The sides fitted with carrying handles.

height 41.5 in.; width 39 in.; depth 22.4 in.
105.4 cm; 99.1 cm; 56.9 cm

No comments: