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The Economics of Renaissance Art

  • Federico Etro
Abstract

I analyzed the market of paintings in Florence and Italy (1285–1550). Hedonic regressions on real prices allowed me to advance evidence that the market was competitive and that an important determinant of artistic innovation was driven by economic incentives. Price differentials reflected quality differentials between painters as perceived at the time (whose proxy is the length of the biography of Vasari) and did not depend on regional destinations, as expected under monopolistic competition with free entry. An inverse-U relation between prices and age of execution is consistent with reputational theories of artistic effort, and prices increased since the 1420s.

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I am extremely grateful to the Editor Ann Carlos and two referees for many suggestions that improved this article, Paolo Malanima for suggestions on data analysis, Paolo Bertoletti, Luciano Canova, David Galenson, Paul Milgrom, and Andrei Shleifer for discussions on the topic and especially Elena Stepanova for outstanding research assistance. The usual disclaimer applies.

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