Many of the results are not surprising. Light colors sell better than dark colors, happy portrait subjects sell better than widows, and horizontal pictures are easier to hang over the fireplace. Here are a few other points of note:
1. Landscapes can as much as triple in value when there are horses or figures in the foreground. Evidence of industry usually lowers a picture’s value.
2. A still life with flowers is worth more than one with fruit. Roses stand at the top of the flower hierarchy, chrysanthemums and lupins (seen as working class) stand at the bottom.
3. There is a hierarchy for animals as well. Purebred dogs help a picture more than mongrels do. Spaniels are worth more than collies. Racehorses are worth more than carthorses. When it comes to gamebirds, the following rule of thumb holds. The more expensive it is to shoot the bird, the more it adds to the value of a painting. A grouse is worth more than a mallard, and you had better show the animal from the front, not the back.
4. Water adds value to a picture, but only if it is calm. Shipwrecks are a no-no.
5. Round and oval works are extremely unpopular with buyers.
6. A Boucher nude sketch of a woman can be worth ten times more than a comparable sketch of a man.
The bottom line: Buyers prefer artworks which in some manner reflect high status.
For the full story, see “Why some Pictures Go For More Than Others,” in the May 2004 issue of The Art Newspaper.