It has just been released that an undisclosed settlement has been reached between an English family and Christie’s auction house over a disputed Titian painting. The painting by the Old Master, depicting Salome with the head of St. John the Baptist on a platter, was sold by a brother and sister to Christie’s in 1994 for 8,000GBP only to stumble upon it in a 2004 exhibition entitled “The Age of Titian” at the Scottish National Gallery. In the years between the initial sale and the sibling’s discovery, the painting had been bought and restored by a private collector who sought out and gained authentication of the piece. With an estimated value of between 2.3 million and 3.8 million GPP the couple was obviously upset and filed a lawsuit before they settled out of court with the auction house. Amazingly, the piece even bears the royal monogram of Charles I and had at one point been a part of his personal gallery.
The case illustrates a number of important points about having a third party art appraisal. First, it proves that auction houses and appraisers are not created equal and some may risk a quick sale and forgo the research often required by pieces of questionable and tantalizing origins. In the complaint filed by the owners they claimed “breach of duty and/or negligence” and alleged that “had they been advised that restoration and cleaning work on the Old Master could have lead to verification that it was an original, they would have commissioned art experts to do so” (Brown).
MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. places a heavy premium on research and often suggests that clients have their pieces restored or conserved for the purposes of exposing secrets hidden by years of grime, damage and nicotine. Beyond aiding in further research, getting a restored piece can greatly increase the value and bring out its true brilliance and magnificence. Also, the case of the misdiagnosed Titian highlights the importance of a third party opinion should someone wish to part with a piece. A consultation is relatively inexpensive and almost always will end in saving the client money in the long run. Even if the consultation backs up the claim that it was not executed by an Old Master it will help reinforce your decision and aid peace of mind. Remember, auction houses seek to profit from the value of your artwork while a reputable art appraiser charges a flat fee and therefore is not influenced by the value. MIR Appraisal Services welcomes all potential clients to give us a call at (312) 814-8510.
Written and Researched by Justin Bergquist
Principal Appraiser: Farhad Radfar, ISA AM
307 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 308
Chicago, IL 60601
Brown, Jonathan. “Couple Settle after their ‘Titian’ was Sold for a Song,” on The Independent Online.