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What is an Objet d'Art?

Anything that possesses artistic merit is considered an objet d'art.
An ancient artifact might be considered an objet d'art.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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An objet d'art is something which is believed to possess artistic merit. Examples of objects d'art vary, from Faberge eggs to Popsicle stick birdhouses, encompassing a wide range of human arts and crafts. Some people also restrict the definition of an objet d'art to a small artifact, excluding large sculptures, paintings, and so forth. Many museums have extensive collections of objets d'art from all over the world for members of the public to admire.

In French, the term literally translates to “object of art” or “piece of art.” An objet d'art may be two dimensional, as might be the case with a miniature painting or a piece of needlework, or it may be a three dimensional sculpture or replica. In all instances, someone has assigned artistic value to the object. In some cases, a culture in general agrees that something is a work of art, as is the case with Persian miniatures, ornately detailed paintings which were widely produced in the Middle East in the 15th century. In other situations, the art value of the work may be limited, as when a child brings home a misshaped ceramic ash tray, which is regarded as an objet d'art by the child's parent, but not usually by society in general.

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The value of an objet d'art is assessed on the basis of evaluations by art professionals. In the case of something like a Faberge egg, the object is intrinsically valuable because of the precious metals and gems which went into its construction, along with the high level of craftsmanship. Faberge eggs are also deemed valuable because of their cultural and historic context, and the fact that they represent a pinnacle of craftsmanship. Many Faberge eggs were also owned by historically important figures, which further increases their value in the eyes of the public.

Many homes have objects d'art which vary in value. Many people, for example, keep small replicas of sculptures or paintings in their homes which could be considered objets d'art. In some cases, these objects may have sentimental value which outweighs any monetary value. Wealthier individuals may keep highly priced objets d'art in their homes; some of the finest works of art in the world are actually in private collections.

Works of fine art can generally be purchased through auctions and art galleries, and they are sometimes transferred directly between owners. Numerous other objets d'art such as mementos and knick knacks are readily available from stores which specialize in that sort of thing, and people may also exchange handmade objets d'art as personal gifts.

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