Art Picks From eBay, Number 23; Pablo Picasso Painting on eBay; Signed; Douglas Cooper

Related Topic: Art Provenance: What It Is and How to Verify It

This is the twenty-third in our instructional series of articles that focuses on how to dissect and analyze the ways that works of art are sometimes described for sale on the internet auction site, eBay. eBay does not actively police their auction offerings, but rather depends on emails from dealers, collectors, experts, buyers, and potential buyers to notify them of problems relating to particular works of art. Any seller can describe any work of art in any manner that he or she chooses, and as long as no one complains, that art sells to the highest bidder. As a result, eBay and similar online auction sites are among the more dangerous places for uninformed or inexperienced collectors to buy original art.

This installment's auction item is described below. credits the seller, by way of eBay, as the source of all of the following information and images. comments and questions appear in red italics throughout the eBay seller's description. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are as they appeared in the original for sale listing. at no time implies, makes, or intends to make any claims or express any opinions regarding the authenticity of any works of art that appear in this series.

Seller's headline:

OUTSTANDING SIGNED PICASSO OIL PAINTING comment: The title states that the item up for sale is a signed oil painting by artist Pablo Picasso.

Seller's description: Pablo Picasso (1881-1973): "Arlequin". Oil painting on canvas. 26 x 24 cm.. comment: The seller states the painting's title and size.


Seller's description continued: Inscriptions on the back (it is what we could read, because very faded): "Pour D. Cooper, cette -deja- vieille chose. Picasso. Mougins (very difficult to read, but it seems to be that) 16.VII.1964" In addition, you can read 1 collector's pencil inscription (on canvas, bottom right): "DC6406P7" and 1 stamp mark (on the wood of the canvas, bottom right) "WMCCP4" or ) "WMCC84".


Photo comment: The seller details the various writings on the back of the painting, but says nothing about the large monogram to the left of the writing.

Seller's description continued: The story of the painting is very simple: we found it at an estate liquidation in Paris, November 1997. As you can see, the painting is not signed on front. Originally, there was, stuck on the back, a sheet of paper, that was masking all inscriptions presented here.

Photo comment: The seller states that the painting was purchased at a Paris estate liquidation, and that it was papered over on the back, hiding all the writing.

Seller's description continued: We kept the painting for its beauty for years, then in June 2002, during a complete restoration & varnishing, we had to remove this paper. Some glue still remains on the back, and we preferred not to clean further, in order to avoid damaging it. comment: The seller states that he kept the paper on the back of the painting for 5 years, apparently not the least bit curious about whether it hid any information, only removing it to restore and varnish the painting.

Seller's description continued: This painting was shown discretely -you know how the experts' world is turning- to a few Picasso connoisseurs. Their oral advice regarding the painting was clear, even if they didn't want to be named or write any documents about the matter; we will try to resume their appraisal and the information we could gather around this work here: comment: This statement is totally confusing. The seller appears to be saying that no "Picasso connoisseur" would put an opinion about the painting in writing. And none wanted to be named. So the seller doesn't name them. Neither does the seller state the qualifications of those unnamed connoisseurs to evaluate Picasso paintings. By the way-- how is the experts' world turning?


Seller's description continued: Only regarding its style, the painting has large chances to be by the hand of Picasso. It could be dated around the beginning of the sixties, a few years before its donation to Mr Cooper. We can recognize here the name of Mr Douglas Cooper (1911-1984), who was the famous friend and biographer of Pablo Picasso. The collector's inscription (DC6406.P7) seems to appear as an inventory number left by Mr Cooper. The stamp (WMCCP4) is still difficult to identify, but seems to indicate that the painting was transferred at a certain time to another collection. The writing and signature seem also to be by the hand of Picasso, in comparison to consulted autographs & written documents by the hand of the Master. comment: Isn't this called "leading the witness?" In any event, an awful lot of stuff "seems" to be the case with this painting. It's not actually the case; it only seems to be the case. And the name "Douglas" has now been coupled with Cooper even though it appears nowhere on the painting. Only the initial "D" appears on the back of the painting.

Seller's description continued: So, regarding all this: even if we are convinced that this painting has serious chances to be an original work by the hand of Pablo Picasso, we are not recognized experts of this artist (and thus not authorized to issue a valuable Certificate of authenticity) and can only sell it as "attributed to Pablo Picasso". comment: Now wait a minute. The headline stated that this was an "outstanding signed Picasso oil painting." What happened? And the painting is supposed to be titled "Arlequin." Where did that come from? One more question: If you're not Picasso experts, how can you attribute this painting to Picasso?

Seller's description continued: A small explanation about our choice to sell such an item on Ebay, as it is: comment: This should be good...

Seller's description continued: We all know that the process for issuing a certificate is generally long and expensive, for all master paintings. comment: Of course we do-- and we sense your anguish.

Seller's description continued: For the works by Pablo Picasso, the process is practically locked: the foundation attached to deliver COAs for his works has been, for several years, absolutely not disposed to issue certificates for works "without a clear and complete possessor's history". Meaning that a work like this one, found in those circumstances, even if it presents all material qualities to be analysed objectively by the recognized experts will have chances (!) to be rejected without having been seen. comment: Could you please repeat that in English?

Seller's description continued: So, in order not to waste time entering a process, whose issue would be to pre-depreciate a work that is certainly highly valuable, we have decided to leave this item on the market, trying to describe the situation completely and honestly to the future buyer of the work. comment: The seller apparently would rather have the buyer waste the time than waste the time himself. The seller states that the painting is "certainly highly valuable," but gives neither reasons nor qualifications for making such a claim.

Seller's description continued: For buyer's convenience, we will provide a signed Sale Certificate, mentioning all information about the item. comment: That's generous. The seller will put everything he just wrote into writing.

Seller's description continued: For a complete transparency, the sale starts at a fair price that only represents our buying-cost , without reserve. The market will make the price. comment: Owners of original Picasso oil paintings are not ordinarily inclined to place them up for sale on eBay with opening bids of $800 (which this one had) and no reserves. As an aside, $800 is a lot to charge for an unsigned 10 X 10 inch painting at an estate liquidation; it's also a lot to pay.

Sold for $15,100 with 32 bids. Stay tuned for our next "Art Pick from eBay."

divider line

Current Features

Services for Artists and Collectors


  • artbusiness on Facebook
  • Artbusiness on Twitter
  • Artbusiness on Instagram