The art of connoisseurship through judicial eyes: the law of negligence and fine art attribution

Posted by: Isabel Paintin | Date posted : 07/09/2015

This article was first published in the July 2015 edition of Art, Antiquity and Law, reproduced here with kind permission of the editor.

In January 2015, the High Court handed down a significant judgment to add to the growing body of case law on the complex and often highly controversial topic of fine art attribution. Thwaytes v. Sotheby’s brings into focus a number of difficult but key issues involved in applying the law of negligence to attributions made by auction houses. The task of making attributions, particularly where works of art are of doubtful authorship, has ever been a matter for debate and dispute among art historians (and remains so today) resting as it largely does on the exercise of the connoisseur’s ‘eye’.

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If you require further information on anything covered in this briefing please contact Isabel Paintin(; 020 3375 7110) or your usual contact at the firm on 020 3375 7000. Further information can also be found on the Art & Cultural Assets page on our website.

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP, September 2015