Old masters are good investments, analysis.
The signature of the old master is the departure point of your research. Is it an important master, is it attribute to a master, circle of a master or school of a master or simply a follower of a master.
You have to establish the artwork in the complete oeuvre of the artist, is it a significant work, a study, a work from his youth, etc.
Is the work included in an exhibition catalog, a catalog raisonne, a comment in an art magazine?
It is better to buy good work by a minor artist than to buy a mediocre work by an important master.
Provenance adds interest and value
The origin of an artwork is a significant element in the attribution of value for an artwork. The provenance is essential not only for the value but also for the history that will confirm the authenticity. The notoriety of the owner who sells the artwork is a significant element in the estimate of value. The sale of Yves Saint-Laurent collection with results some times ten times higher than the estimates.
Restoration of an artwork
Often old master artworks are in a bad state of conservation.
Some artworks were restored multiple times.
Restorations are costly when experimented experts in repair do them.
Some restorations are easy to do, like erasing a varnish.
Some restoration may look very surprising, like this story that happened to a client.
A painting attributed to Jan Bril was sold by a major British auction house in NY. It was only attributed to.
When the customer sent it to the restorer, he did find that the image of a horse was added to the painting. The horse was not as well painted as the rest of the picture. The restorer did some test, and they discovered that under the image of the horse was a couple laying down against the bottom of a tree. It was the original subject of the painting made by Bril, but since they were naked religious policies imposed that the naked people in front of the tree will be covered. The value of the painting increased 1000% overnight! Thank you, British auction house!
I advise investing in an old master painting that needs an easy to make restoration and not in a painting that received lots of restoration.
Also, I advise to do research online and see if the artist was prolific or if his works are rarely up for auction.
The subject of the painting itself
Also, consider the visual impact the artwork will have on your interior. Is the subject pleasing you or your family because many old masters paintings have very cruel subjects?
A city description by example, the Coliseum in Rome, or views of London Bridge Towers may have important sentimental importance to you.
Portraits of ancestors you may be related to or that people you know are related to may have sentimental value.
Prices starting very low
In important auction houses, usually in day sales, you can find some very interesting works, city views, bible scenes, still lives, etc.
These works have usually a lable circle of an artist, or follower of, or school of an artist.
Nonetheless, some works, so as the example mentioned earlier, Paul Bril, could reserve very nice surprises.
In major auction houses, they don’t have the time to spend on artworks with poor provenance, or that are not by the hand of a master.
Clearly, they overlook a lot of artworks they offer in their auctions because they don’t have the time to investigate.