Connoisseurship is defined as “a thorough knowledge and understanding of principles, techniques, and details of a particular facet of the arts.”[1] But what do those words actually mean?

The word “connoisseur” looks French and is indeed related to the French verb connaître, “to know.” But connoisseurship is more than simply knowing. Connaître‘s ancestor is the Latin word cognoscere, or co-gnoscere: with — recognition or knowledge. That root reaches to the heart of the art connoisseurship.

Art connoisseurship implies a degree of learning and experience that allows a connoisseur almost intuitively to recognize the work of a particular artist.  Inferred in co-gnoscere is understanding.  An understanding that there is always more to be learned or tested. Without this compassionate knowledge, an art expert can become an egotistical connoisseur. True connoisseurship includes the humility of wisdom. True connoisseurs verify the facts of provenance and scientific examination as detailed in the three-legged stool approach. Then and only then is connoisseurship valid. 

[1], “Connoisseur,”

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