It is very difficult to prove today that a painting done two or three hundred years ago, especially one without a sig... on July 27, 2019

Tough question

Could you provide some guidance on why A is the correct choice here?

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Irina on July 27, 2019

This is a strengthen question, meaning we are looking for an answer choice that would provide support the position that the traditional attribution should NOT have special weight.

Let's briefly look at the argument.

It is very difficult to prove that an old painting is indubitably the work of a particular artist. This fact gives the traditional attribution of a disputed painting special weight, since that attribution carries the presumption of historical continuity.

What the author is trying to say is that since it is hard to establish attribution today, art historians tend to stick to the original attribution that happened at the time the painting was created.

Now let's look at (A).

(A) says that art dealers have always been led by economic self-interest to attribute any unsigned paintings of merit to recognized masters. This fact leads us to believe that if an art dealer encountered an unsigned painting two hundred years ago, they would sell it as work of a recognized artist at that time to get the best price. Since art dealers were motivated by profit rather than historical accuracy, there is no reason to give special weight to their attribution even though it is traditional in a sense that it happened around the same time the painting was created rather than today.

Does this make sense? Let me know if you have any other questions. on July 28, 2019

Yes, it does. Thank you!

MasonDees on October 25, 2022

I'm still struggling with A because how do we know art dealers are influential in attributing any given artwork to particular artists? From the prompt, couldn't it be entirely possible only art historians say which paintings belong to whom, and so A doesn't strengthen the argument at all?

Emil-Kunkin on October 26, 2022

Hi, that could indeed be true. Maybe the art dealers are sometimes, maybe even often unsuccessful at convincing others of their alleged attribution. However, we don't need to find a bulletproof sander, only one that strengthens. It does not have to guarantee that traditional attributions are wrong, but A certainly does give us a reason to think they are not reliable.