In a fight with a dealer who consigned what’s believed to be a fake Old Master painting, Sotheby’s has enlisted an unlikely partner: its archrival, Christie’s.
In 2011, a work attributed to Dutch Golden Age artist Frans Hals sold at Sotheby’s for $10.8 million, but afterward, scholars revealed that paint pigments on the canvas could only have been available four centuries after the artist’s lifetime. Sotheby’s reimbursed the buyer, and sued the consignor, the art dealer Mark Weiss, in order to recoup the funds (the lawsuit also named collector David Kowitz as a defendant). The collector from whom Quinn acquired the work, a French man named Giuliano Ruffini, was found to also have a fake work previously thought to be by German master Lucas Cranach the Elder.
Specialists from Christie’s were questioned by Sotheby’s in preparation for the lawsuit proceedings as the rival house had previously questioned the legitimacy of the painting. According to Bloomberg, one Christie’s specialist told French police the auction house had “too many doubts” about the alleged Hals painting.
A trial pitting Sotheby’s against Weiss is set to begin in April 2019 in London.