John Michael Montias

John Michael Montias (3 October 1928 – 26 July 2005) was an economist and art historian, well known for his contributions to the economic history of Dutch Golden Age painting. Born in Paris, he studied at Columbia University, where he received his Ph.D in Soviet bloc economics in 1958.[1] He subsequently taught economics at Yale University. He published studies on Polish and Romanian economics, and, in 1977, the book Structure of Economic Systems.

In the mid-1970s his interest shifted to the economics of art in seventeenth-century Netherlands, a subject that had interested him since his time as a postgraduate student. His first article on this subject, "Painters in Delft, 1613–1680" published in the 1978–1979 volume of Simiolus, is credited with helping invigorate the study of the economies of art. This line of research culminated in his book Artists and Artisans in Delft: A Socio-Economic Study of the Seventeenth Century (1982). The book demonstrates convincingly how economic history may contribute to a better understanding of cultural developments.

Montias's contributions to Vermeer studies have been widely acknowledged. In 1989 he published Vermeer and His Milieu, in which he mentions many new documents on Pieter van Ruijven, Jacobus Dissius, his son-in-law and Hendrick van Buijten, the principal collectors of Vermeer's paintings. He concentrated on Maria Thins, Vermeer's mother-in-law, when he discovered Vermeer had moved into her house.


Montias began recording details of ownership of works of art from the Amsterdam City Archives in the early 1980s, as part of his own work on the prices of Dutch paintings at Amsterdam auctions in the 17nth century. In 1986, he was given a grant by the Getty Art History Information Program to work in conjunction with its Provenance Index.[2] He was one of the earliest contributors to the index, which had been established only a few years earlier, and eventually gave information from over 300 inventories. After he left the Getty, he continued inputting the material on his own and added data from nearly 1000 more, all of which he gave to the Frick Art Reference Library. The complete Montias Database is available through the Frick Collection web site.


  1. ^ Parts of his thesis were published as J. M. Montias (Dec 1959). "Planning with Material Balances in Soviet-Type Economies". The American Economic Review. 49 (5): 963–985. JSTOR 1813077.
  2. ^ Getty Provenance Index
  • Dictionary of Art Historians
  • Gary Schwartz, "Some Questions Concerning Inventory Research," in A. Golahny and M.M. Mochizuki (eds.), In His Milieu Essays on Netherlandish Art in Memory of John Michael Montias, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006 (403–410).
  • Montias, J.M. (1989) Vermeer and his milieu.

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