This month marks the five-year anniversary of Christie’s historic Salvator Mundi sale. A piece on authenticity warranties by Anny Shaw made me think more deeply about what the concept of “scholarly consensus” means in a scholarly or academic setting, and why the “generally-accepted opinion of experts” might take on a different resonance in a legal setting. Works sold at auction by major auction houses like Christie’s or Sotheby’s are backed by a five-year authenticity warranty. Shaw asks the hypothetical question, “Could the Salvator Mundi’s buyer have invoked the authenticity warranty and asked for their money back?” (The short answer is “No,” because the attribution given in the lot description followed the “generally-accepted opinion of experts” at the time of sale. ) In this piece, “Consensus,” I examine how concepts of scholarly consensus differ between the legal and academic communities.
Those interested in reading more about the history of the Salvator Mundi and how it came to be auctioned for almost half a billion dollars might be interested in reading an earlier piece that I wrote, “The Leonardo Business,” which discusses Ben Lewis’s book, The Last Leonardo, and popular perceptions of the Salvator Mundi.