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Old owner loses compensation battle with Sotheby's over Carvaggio

By Aileen Graef
Old owner loses compensation battle with Sotheby's over Carvaggio
"The Cardshaps" by Caravaggio. Public Domain.

LONDON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Lancelot William Thwaytes lost his court battle with Sotheby's Friday over a work of art that may or may not have been painted by Italian master Caravaggio.

Thwaytes inherited "The Cardsharps," and after being told by Sotheby's it was painted by one Caravaggio's followers, sold it in 2006 for £46,000 ($70,000). The painting was bought by Sir Denis Mahon, who had it cleaned, restored and insured for £10 million ($15 million) after declaring it an original Carvaggio.

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The original painting is at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, but Caravaggio may have painted more than one version.

Thwaytes sued Sotheby's for giving "negligent advice" in regards to the originality of the painting and its inherent value. The judge ruled Thwaytes failed to prove negligence and that the painting was a Carvaggio, which Sotheby's maintains it isn't.

"They reasonably came to the view on the basis of what they saw that the quality of the painting was not sufficiently high to indicate that it might be by Caravaggio," she said.

Sotheby's praised the ruling while reaffirming they hired top experts to look at the painting.

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Sotheby's is delighted that today's ruling dismisses all claims brought against the company and confirms that Sotheby's expertise is of the highest standards. After a four-week trial in which five witnesses for Sotheby's and three independent experts gave testimony, the judge concluded that Sotheby's was not negligent and that the Sotheby's Old Master Painting specialists who assessed the work were 'highly qualified,' examined the painting 'thoroughly,' and reasonably came to the view that the quality of the painting was 'not sufficiently high' to merit further investigation.

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