LONDON: A High Court judge has ruled that Christieâ€™s auctioneers should return 1.5 million pounds ($2.4 million) paid by a wealthy Russian art collector for a painting that was probably fake.
Mr. Justice Newey concluded the painting, â€śOdalisque,â€ť which shows a nude woman asleep on a bed, was probably not painted by Boris Kustodiev, a Russian artist who has been compared with English painter L.S. Lowry.
The judge ruled that Christieâ€™s had not been negligent, but should return the money that Viktor Vekselbergâ€™s firm Avrora Fine Arts Investment paid for the painting at a Christieâ€™s auction in London in 2005.
â€śIt follows,â€ť he said, â€śthat Avrora is entitled to cancel its purchase of the painting and recover the money it paid.â€ť
Kustodiev (1878 to 1927) was much better known within Russia than outside, the judge said, adding one art expert had suggested Kustodiev was â€śto the Russians what Lawrence Stephen Lowry is to the English in terms of affection in which he is held.â€ť
The work had been described in the sale catalogue as â€śone of the best examples of Kustodievâ€™s idea of the provincial merchant class,â€ť and displayed the inscription â€śB. Kustodiev â€“ 1919.â€ť
Avrora took legal action against Christieâ€™s when an art dealer expressed doubts that the painting was genuine. An expert called by Christieâ€™s thought the painting was authentic, although â€śnot one of Kustodievâ€™s best works.â€ť
Christieâ€™s lawyers insisted that Odalisque was authentic and the auction house could not be blamed if the painting was no masterpiece.