The sublime qualities of a great painting reveal themselves in many ways be it the brush strokes (Van Gogh’s are insanely patterned) the subject (the “Mona Lisa” continues to draw publicity) the psychology (Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring” inspired a novel) or the time period in which the painting was created (Picasso in all his periods). I find it difficult to look at a great many paintings because there is just so much to see.
Objects, and I am thinking primarily of furniture, have two basic premises, function and beauty. The furniture trade, which had thousands of practitioners in the 18th century in England was capable of fulfilling those premises and as early as 1720 was out-exporting furniture to every European country save for France by a minimum of at least five times. In other words, for every five chairs that were exported, they only imported one. it is an impressive testament to art as craft and craft as art.
It is the survival of objects that helps make them something other than just functional items. Objects get loved and they get ignored, but when they survive, they say something. I have been told about good furniture that has been thrown in the trash. It almost never stays there because people walking by it just can’t leave it there. The same has happened to paintings and I even though I suspect some masterpieces have been destroyed, it is a testimony to mankind that we seldom let that happen.