Art Picks From eBay, Number 6; Erte Art Limited Edition Print on eBay

This is the sixth 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, in this case, numerous 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:

Erte Fine Art Print comment: The title states that the item up for auction is something called a "fine art print" by the famous French artist and fashion designer known as Erte.


Seller's description: "La rose au pollen de diamants" This Fine Art Print was carefully scanned and printed from the from the 1928 original French publication "L'Illustration". comment: L'Illustration was a popular French magazine that was published from 1843 through 1944. According to the seller's wording, "This Fine Art Print" appears to be a copy of an old magazine illustration that's most likely been scanned into a computer and then printed out. In other words, bidders are bidding on a copy of a copy of an Erte.

Seller's description continued: ERTE was born Romain de Tirtoff in Russia in 1892. Started his career as a fashion designer and later, became an illustrator for Harpers Bazaar & Vogue. Prior to and just after WWII, ERTE designed costumes for many Revues, Theatre's and Opera houses. comment: This information is irrelevant to the auction item because a copy of a copy of an Erte has nothing to do with an original Erte.

Seller's description continued: Limited to 100 prints, each print is hand numbered by the master printer... comment: Several questions here. First of all, who is the "master printer?" Is that the seller himself? Is it someone else? Does anybody care whether someone hand numbers a copy of an old magazine illustration?

Second, are any copyright issues being violated here? Does the "master printer" have the legal right to copy and market this image? Is this image in the public domain? Does the "master printer" need authorization from Erte's estate before copying and selling this image?

Seller's description continued: ...and then the plates were destroyed. comment: How does the process of scanning and copying an old magazine illustration produce plates? How many plates and what printing processes were supposedly used to copy this image?

Seller's description continued: The image size is 13"w X 12.5"h. printed on special art paper made in France. The colors in this Fine Art Print are warm redish brown, a pale yellow. The result is a stunning work, handsome, moody and would look great with any Art Deco collection. comment: In other words, the winning bidder gets a piece of French paper with a copy of a copy of an Erte on it.

Seller's description continued: (The gallery retail price for this art print is $800.00 It will be sold here with no reserve! comment: Once again, the age old question-- if this copy of an old magazine illustration is worth anywhere near $800, why is the seller offering it with no reserve at an opening bid of only $24.99?

Seller's description continued: Get this investment quality original print now !) comment: How can a copy of an old magazine illustration possibly be considered as either "original" or "investment quality?"

Sold for $41.00 with 5 bids. Stay tuned for our next "Art Pick from eBay."

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