Here’s a reversal of the usual discovery story in the Daily Mail. A British couple found a dusty old painting in 1993 that they thought might be valuable. They brought it to Christie’s where one of the experts considered for a moment that it could be a “wreck of an original.” But, in the end, Christie’s advised the consignors to sell it as it was.
Assured that cleaning the painting would be an unnecessary expense David Seton Pollok-Morris Dickson, 60, and his sister Susan Marjorie Glencorse Priestley, 62, agreed a valuation. When it went under the hammer 12 months later in December 1994 they watched as lot 348 was sold for its reserve price of just £8,000.
They got £8,000 for the painting. Everything would have been fine if Salome with the Head of John the Baptist hadn’t been in a Titian show that Mr. Dickinson attended and saw his painting identified as by the master himself.
Only later after the painting was sold on again in 2001, this time to Milan-based private collector Luigi Koelliker, was its true value revealed. And ironically, all it took was a little cleaning.
Yesterday Mr Dickson and his sister reached an out-of-court settlement with Christie’s after launching legal action at the High Court claiming breach of duty and negligence.
Mr Dickson, from Ayrshire, and Mrs Priestley, from Clapham in south London, said Christie’s had failed in their commitment to competently ‘research and advise’ on the painting’s value.
It doesn’t really end there. The Daily Mail would have you believe the picture was valued at £2.6m to £4m because Sotheby’s had offered it last January in New York with a $4-6m estimate on it. Unfortunately, the painting was bought in at that sale. It turns out there’s still doubt about whether the work is more by the master or by one of the members of his studio.