Empirical Economics

, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 755–773 | Cite as

The impact of color palettes on the prices of paintings

  • Elena StepanovaEmail author


We emphasize that color composition is an important characteristic of a painting. It impacts the auction price of a painting, but it has never been considered in previous studies on art markets. By using Picasso’s paintings and paintings of Color Field Abstract Expressionists sold in Chrisite’s and Sotheby’s auctions in New York between 1998 and 2016, we demonstrate the method to analyze color compositions: How to extract color palettes from a painting image and how to measure color characteristics. We propose two measures: (1) the surface occupied by specific colors, (2) color diversity of a painting composition. Controlling for all conventional painting and sale characteristics, our empirical results find significant evidence of contrastive paintings, i.e., paintings with high diversity of colors, carrying a premium than equivalent artworks which are performed in monochromatic style. In the case of Picasso’s paintings, our econometric analysis shows that some colors are associated with high prices.


Art markets Hedonic pricing Picasso Rothko Visual perception Color Color quantizing 

JEL Classifications

Z11 C810 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Economics and ManagementSant’Anna School of Advanced StudiesPisaItaly

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