The Market: The Cinderella Question

Normally it is the auctioneer who points in ecstasy at some modest morsel of art and racks his brain for superlatives. And it is the greybeards, full of probity, in the museum pantheon who toll the bell. But roles were reversed last week when New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art bid a paltry $225 for a sculpture at a Parke-Bernet auction, then gleefully announced that its new acquisition might be worth more than $500,000.

The Cinderella question was whether the 26-in.-high polychromed bust of a young woman holding primroses was the handiwork of one of...

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