A catalogue raisonné is a complete listing of all known works by an artist. Each work is listed with an identifying catalogue number, as well as information such as provenance, current location and owner of the work and exhibition history.
A catalogue raisonné is essential in determining the supply of an artist’s work. Catalogue raisonné indicates the past and present owners of each artwork listed. For example, it is possible for the seller of a conte′ crayon drawing, “The Prisoner” by Dumile Feni-Mhlaba (South African, 1942-1991) to show a prospective buyer exactly how many works in that medium, theme, size and date were painted. An astute dealer will be able to combine the information in the catalogue raisonné with his own knowledge of current ownership and infer how many (or rather, how few) of a particular type of work are ever likely to be sold.
The publication of a catalogue raisonné may have a strong effect on the value of an artist’s work because it defines the supply empirically and provides the basis for reasonable assumptions regarding whether any particular work might be available.