Art historian Michael Baxandall suggested seeing art as a solution to a problem, where necessities of different kinds “charge” the urge to create it. Accordingly, he saw art historians’ role as giving an account of the factors which brought forth and shaped the finished artwork.
I painted on pages 30-31 in Jan von Bonsdorff’s article “Is Art a Barometer of Wealth? Medieval Art Exports to the Far North of Europe,” where he pointed out the problem of conducting historical research without sources outside of the artwork and visualized Baxandall’s model.
Following Von Bonsdorff’s point, I’m wondering what art historians can do when the situation is the opposite; plenty of factors and sources relevant to the artwork but hard to grasp and describe.