Antique Painting Buying Guide

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Antique Painting Buying Guide

Antique paintings are generally judged to be pieces of art that were created pre-1900. If it is created any later than this then it may not technically be considered to be ‘antique’.

The art of buying antique paintings is one that can be confusing and on occasion, hard to find a deal that represents both the condition of the painting and it’s true value.

eBay has an enormous amount of antique paintings available for purchase, all of which can be purchased at reasonable and often under the radar prices.

Styles of Antique Paintings 

Antique paintings are reflections of the painting styles that were popular at the time of creation. Although there are many different styles that were used pre-1900, the most popular and easily sourced are listed below:

  • Realism: Realist paintings were created as a rejection of the romanticist painter’s work that went before it. When looking for a realist ancient painting, look for work that represents situations of everyday life. Most popularly, realist paintings come in the form of depictions of landscapes or in the form of portraits. Animals are often portrayed in realism style paintings, also.
  • Impressionist: Paintings from the impressionist genre have some very unique characteristics. Unlike the realist paintings mentioned above, impressionist paintings tend not to be created as painstakingly accurate. Attributes of impressionist art include shorter brush strokes, mixing of different lights and the colours and lines used are not necessarily as clean cut as those from the work of realist painters. Broadly speaking, impressionist paintings are less detailed in the portrayal of their subjects.
  • Miniature: True to the name that has been given to their style, miniature paintings are those that are of a smaller size than a traditional portrait or landscape portrayal. Their size, however, does not lessen their worth. Miniature paintings required a certain degree of slight of hand that only a number of artists could utilise. These pieces of work were generally created using watercolour. Paintings from the miniature genre from the late 19th century are rare due to rise in the popularity of photography.
  • Abstract: Antique paintings given the title of ‘Abstract’ differ enormously in style from the likes of realism and the miniature paintings previously mentioned. In their art, abstract painters did not necessarily make clear the subject matter of their work. On occasion, bright blocks of colour are used to evoke a sense of feeling from the painting that differs from those created through realist or impressionist artworks.

Mediums of Antique Paintings

As well as there being a varied amount of styles of antique painting, there are also a number of mediums and materials that have been made use of in their creation. Here is a table depicting the various painting mediums utilised:



Oil-based Paintings

The most widely available medium of ancient paintings are those that were created using oil-based paints. The most famous example of an oil-based painting is Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci. Many oil-based paintings are created on canvas, so if looking for this specific type of painting, be aware of this. Some oil paintings are of enormous value due to the lengthy process that can take place in their creation.

Watercolour Paintings

Watercolour paintings differ from oil-based paintings. They use a different type of paint that is water-based. In terms of watercolour painting characteristics, the work tends to contain a number of colour layers. The colours in watercolour paintings are also softer and more delicate. Due to the fact that the paint has a base of water the colours are more transparent and in their nature. This means that the majority of watercolour paintings can take a long time to create due the layering procedure involved. There are a vast number of Victorian watercolour paintings available at reasonable prices. There are also paintings available on the likes of eBay which have been painted with ‘Gouache’ paints, a denomination of watercolour paints.

Original and Reproduction Antique Paintings

When buying antique paintings, finding out whether the artwork is an original or reproduction is an important factor in determining condition and in turn, value.

Original Antique Paintings

Finding an original pre-1900 painting can be a complex process. There a number of considerations that need to be factored into the final decision when purchasing. Here are some of the issues that determine an original painting’s value:

  • History: If the painting is an original as advertised, the seller should be able to provide the buyer with its auction history. If a seller does not provide any previous selling prices for the painting in question then it may be wise to avoid buying from them. If a selling history is provided then it makes it a lot easier for a fair price to be agreed in relation to the amount that has been paid for the painting before. Asking a seller for selling history can only be advantageous in the avoiding of paying over the odds for an antique painting.
  • Condition: Original pre-1900 paintings have obviously been around for a long time. In this case, the condition of the painting will play a major role in determining the price that should be paid for it. Whereas paintings with small tears in the canvas can be restored, more significant damage should not be ignored when looking to buy. Ask for clear digital images of the painting and do not be afraid to ask for an honest evaluation of the paintings quality.
  • Value: Use the likes of specialist art forums and blogs to determine whether the price being paid reflects the true value of a painting. Simply because a painting is older than other it does not necessarily mean that it should be worth more. Reading up on certain pre-1900 artists and styles may help in the avoidance of paying over the odds for an antique painting.

Reproduction Antique Paintings

Reproduction paintings are replica versions of popular original works of art. Much akin to when buying an original painting, there are some precautions that need to be considered before settling for a purchase:

  • Copyright: When buying an imitation painting make sure that there are no copyright infringements being made on behalf of the seller. Whether it is a famous painting or not, it may have a copyright standard placed on it that states that its reproduction may be illegal. In this case, illegal reproductions may be sold at under normal prices because of their quality and condition. As far as antique paintings are concerned, it is always best to spend a little bit more to ensure that a painting is of good quality and condition.
  • Condition: Some replica pre-1900 paintings may not be of a high standard. They are often not created with the same due care that some good value reproduction paintings are. Ask for clear images of the painting to ensure that whilst it is a reproduction of an original piece, it is in a good enough condition to hang up or re-sell.
  • Value: The price of a reproduction painting should be no more than an original piece of the same quality. Some sellers may be looking to make a quick sale. Be aware of sellers such as this. Sites such as eBay offer the facilities for a buyer to be able to identify a dishonest seller. Use the guide on how to buy using eBay below.

Using eBay to Buy Antique Paintings

eBay is a great way of purchasing both original and reproduction pre-1900 paintings. There a number of amenities available to buyers that helps with the selection of specific products in order to provide honest and secure transactions.

Make use of the filter tabs at the side of the buying page to enable a specific and accurate search. In doing so, a determination between styles, mediums and originality can all be made.

  • Here is a checklist of things that can be done in order to secure an antique painting at true value and condition:
  • Read the seller’s transaction history. Sellers with a previous history of selling antique paintings should have a lot of positive feedback.
  • Ask for clear images of the painting.
  • Ask questions about the painting’s previous selling history. If it is an original it may have been sold at auctions before this sale. If not provided, ask the seller for proof of auction history.
  • Read the product description thoroughly so as to avoid any surprises when the painting arrives concerning its condition or size.
  • Be familiar with eBay’s Terms and Conditions for the buying of products from the site.


With so many styles and mediums of paintings around it can be difficult to choose a piece of artwork that is not too expensive yet is a genuinely valuable piece of art.

The buying of an ancient painting needn’t be a complicated process. Whilst there are a number of considerations that are necessary before the purchase of a painting, if one is familiar with artists and the styles and mediums used in pre-1900 paintings then a fair deal should occur between both the buyer and the seller.

The use of eBay’s PayPal payment system should also encourage a secure and reasonable transaction.

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