top of page

On auction sales, attributions and the law

Title: The Sale of Misattributed Artworks and Antiques

at Auction

Foreword: Professor Pierre Tercier

Publisher: Edward Elgar Publishing

Year of Publication: 2016

Award: Professor Walther Hug Prize 2017

Synopsis: An analysis of art auction sales and the liability of auction houses under US, UK, and Swiss law.

This book is the outcome of my PhD Thesis that was co-directed by Professor Marc-André Renold (University of Geneva) and Professor Tatiana Flessas (London School of Economics and Political Science). 

Abstract: The glamour and mystery of the art auction, gathering interested buyers from across the globe, makes it one of the most fascinating marketplaces in existence. ‘Sleepers’, artworks or antiques that have been undervalued and mislabelled due to an expert’s oversight and consequently undersold, appear regularly. This fascinating new book provides the first extensive study of the phenomenon of sleepers through an in-depth analysis of the contractual relationships, liability and remedies that arise in the context of auction sales. 

The Sale of Misattributed Artworks and Antiques at Auction begins with an examination of the creation of sleepers and the process of attribution of artworks and antiques at auction. This is followed by a comparative analysis of the law governing auctioneer’s liability in Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States and a critical assessment of the risks and drawbacks of the current practical and legal regime. The book concludes with an original and pragmatic solution to the challenge of addressing and settling sleeper disputes at auction, including model terms that auction houses can directly adopt in their business terms.

This insightful new book will be of interest to lawyers, auction houses and anyone involved in the authentication or sale of artworks. It will also provide a valuable resource for academics and students in law, anthropology and arts.

The International Journal of Cultural Property says:

"Anne Laure Bandle’s book, titled The Sale of Misattributed Artworks and Antiques at Auction, covers the topic of contractual law focusing on auctions and current controversies surrounding misattributed artworks. Awarded the Walther Hug Prize 2017 for its advancement of legal studies, her book reveals the author’s deep understanding of the commercial transactions of art sales. (...) The audience for Bandle’s book includes art market specialists, legal scholars and students, art historians, collections committees and acquisition staffs in museums, and anyone interested in purchasing a work of art from an auction house or selling one there. The book is well researched with regard to the role of auction houses in the art market, case law, and scholarly opinions on legal statutes; it is also very accessible. Bandle manages the complexities of the regulations with ease, while enlivening the text with references to cases of “sleepers,” such as the drawing La Bella  Principessa attributed to Leonardo da Vinci (57f), two paintings attributed to Sir Anthony van Dyck (17), and Nicolas Poussin’s The Destruction and Sack of the Temple of Jerusalem (80), which was originally attributed to Pietro Testa (1f)" (Betty L. Schlothan, "Review of Anne Laure Bandle, The Sale of Misattributed Artworks and Antiques at Auction. 416 pp. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2016", International Journal of Cultural Property (2017) 24:517–518).

For more information and to purchase the book, please visit Edward Elgar's website.

bottom of page