Connoisseurship, Technology, and Art Attribution in an American Court of Law
The case of Hahn versus Duveen, tried in New York in 1929, hinged on the attribution of a painting supposedly by Leonardo Da Vinci. Was attribution, as the art dealer Duveen claimed, primarily a question of experts’ intuitive judgment, or should it be established, as Hahn’s lawyers asserted, by empirically verifiable scientific methods? In adjudicating the conflict between these two very different regimes of truth, both the court and the jury rejected intuitive judgment and therefore the testimony of some of the most important experts in the Old Master art market. The evaluators were evaluated and found wanting. The outcome was site specific—it pointed to the weakness of intuitive art expertise as legal evidence—but in the long run it helped shape a closer co-operation between those with the experienced eye and experts in the scientific properties of pictures.
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