Property Rights: Sculptor or Chiseler?

PROPERTY RIGHTS

How much of a sculptor's skill lies in the dexterity of his hands, how much in the depths of his imagination? Those art-seminar questions are now the very practical concern of a Paris court. At issue are 32 works of sculpture that came out of the atelier of the great French impressionist painter Auguste Renoir shortly before his death half a century ago. In a suit seeking to win rights as "co-author," a Spanish-born sculptor named Richard Guino, 78, is arguing that his were the hands that really shaped the Renoir masterpieces.

No one disputes Guino's astonishing claim. In Paris...