Why Is Art So Expensive? Copy Of Famous ‘Mona Lisa’ Replica Goes For $60k
The famous “Mona Lisa” painting is expected to sell for $60,000 to $80,000. And in a highly unusual move, Sotheby’s has included a batch of six other copies in Thursday’s sale.
Among them are reproductions of other iconic artworks, including Caravaggio’s “Medusa” and Hieronymus Bosch’s triptych “The Garden of Earthly Delights.” Versions of works by other Old Masters — the greats of pre-19th-century European art — such as Diego Velázquez and Correggio will also go under the hammer.
Copies may be associated with art-world fraud, but there are many legitimate reasons why they were made, according to Christopher Apostle, senior vice president and head of Old Masters at Sotheby’s.
“Historically speaking, a copy wasn’t necessarily viewed as negatively as it might have been later,” he said on the phone from New York, where the sale is taking place. “We know that collectors of famous paintings hired specific artists to create copies that they could give away or hang in other residences.”
Warner-Johnson, who worked at Christie’s before setting up his own art advisory firm, warned that the auction might attract unexpected buyers, which could inflate prices. Rather than adding to their Old Master collections or investment portfolios, prospective buyers may be acquiring the works for personal reasons, he suggested.
“You would probably be bidding against someone who is making a one-off purchase and is not thinking in terms of investment,” he explained. “So they would probably outbid you at auction.”
If I had a client who collected works by Leonardo’s pupils, I might consider recommending a good copy of a Leonardo to fit into that collection. But for a ‘Mona Lisa’ you’re probably going to be competing with people who will spend far more than you would advise someone to spend — people who just want an iconic image.”