by Laura Stirton Aust, Paper Conservator, ARTcare

We often see descriptions of prints, drawings, and watercolors for sale.  They are found in auction catalogs, in gallery brochures and now on the internet.  The particulars usually include the artist, the title, the media, the size, and the condition of the paper.  The condition is critical because the value of a work of art is based in large part upon condition. 

Although a verbal or written description of the condition of an artwork can never replace examining the piece firsthand, it may be the only information available.  A condition description may alert the buyer to damage or conditions that are not immediately visible.

A complete condition report will list the number, size and location of tears.  It will also list support distortions, color and/or surface variations, image or design modifications as well as previous conservation or restoration treatment.  However, it is unusual to have all this information included in a sale catalog.  More likely there will be only list of words.  These words are referred to as condition terms and are subjective.  None the less they are generally accepted definitions of these terms.  Some of the more widely used terms are defined below. 

Pristine:        Brand new, never handled, mint condition.

Excellent:        No damaged areas, but obviously not new.  Minimal amount of

normal wear and tear marks.  Received no conservation.

Good:    Minor damage, moderate amount of wear marks.  Less than one quarter of the piece showing any kind of damage.  Minor pieces broken but considered repairable.  Conservation treatment did not or will not alter the aesthetics of the image or visual history of materials.

Fair:    Up to half of the object showing some damage.  Severe wear marks.  Major pieces broken, but present, or less than half of the pieces missing.  Conservation treatment did not or will not alter the aesthetics of the image and visual history of materials.

Poor:    More than half of the object showing damage.  Serious damage, major tears, areas missing.  Severe discoloration.  Conservation treatment may alter the aesthetics or may not be possible.

Home  |  About ARTcare  |  Gallery  |  Presentations  |  Contact Us  |  Links