Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Art Business

First Advisor

Elizabeth Pergam

Second Advisor

Ann-Marie Richard


A number of events highlighting female artists who lived and worked before the year 1900 are currently appearing in the art world. In consideration of this expanding cultural activity, this paper explores recent art market behavior around premodern female painters by examining sales of their work at auction between the years 1998 and 2019. The larger questions around such an analysis include assessing if the work of premodern female artists presents a new investment opportunity for collectors, and if it could also provide a means of invigorating the Old Master market. Three case studies representing female artists from different locations, historical periods, and with varying amounts of scholarship and available works are used to study art market trends over the past two decades. The paper finds that the market for works by Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun is currently on a robust trajectory of growth, and analysis of repeat sales at auction demonstrates generally positive returns for collectors who invest in her paintings. Auctions for Artemisia Gentileschi have recently shown strong individual results for paintings featuring female protagonists as their subject matter. A record-breaking sale in November 2019 and a retrospective exhibition at London’s National Gallery in 2020 will likely result in growing market recognition and increased demand for works by Artemisia. In contrast, Judith Leyster is an artist who remains generally unacknowledged by the art market and has not achieved recognition or broad appeal to collectors. Her work does not present an opportunity for investors. The paper concludes that specific cases of premodern female artists which include a well-documented and compelling life story, strong scholarship, museum activity, and available inventory, could become invigorating figures for the Old Master market and will likely present reliable investment opportunities for collectors.