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Purchase Story

Sotheby's Learns of Fake, Refunds Buyer, and Sues Consignor

M.A.D. staff | March 7th, 2017

Sotheby’s filed suit in January in U.S. District Court in New York seeking to recover money paid to Lionel de Saint Donat-Pourrières of Luxembourg, who consigned a painting that has turned out to be a forgery.

The painting, Saint Jerome, was attributed to the circle of Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, known as Parmigianino, an Italian old master who was active in the 16th century. It was consigned in May 2011. The consignment contract provides that Sotheby’s can rescind the sale if it learns that the painting “is inaccurately described in the catalogue” or “is a counterfeit (a modern forgery intended to deceive),” or if Sotheby’s determines, in its sole judgment, that the sale may subject Sotheby’s to “any liability.”

Saint Jerome sold on January 26, 2012, for $842,500, and Donat-Pourrières received $672,000. The painting subsequently has been determined by Orion Analytical, LLC (now a subsidiary of Sotheby’s) and James Martin, a forensic scientist and expert in art authentication, to be a relatively recent forgery. Martin took pigment samples from 21 different areas of the painting; every one contained a modern synthetic pigment, phthalocyanine green, which was first used in paints nearly four centuries after Parmigianino died.

Sotheby’s is refunding in full the money it received from the buyer, but Donat-Pourrières has refused to refund the amount he received. Sotheby’s is suing for breach of contract, claiming damages in the amount Donat-Pourrières received from the sale and related costs and expenses.

Originally published in the March 2017 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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