Sotheby’s Denies Helping Flip Yves Bouvier’s $127.5 Million Leonardo da Vinci

The trio of sellers is threatening to sue.

Dmitriy Rybolovlev. Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images.

Sotheby’s filed a preemptive request with a federal judge to clear itself of any wrongdoing after the auction house was sucked into a long-running fraud case between Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev and freeport magnate-turned-art-dealer Yves Bouvier.

The dispute revolves around the private sale of Leonardo da Vinci’s Christ as Salvator Mundi (ca. 1500), one of approximately 38 pieces of art that Bouvier allegedly sold to Rybolovlev for above market value, which resulted in the billionaire filing civil suits and criminal charges against Bouvier in Monaco and Singapore.

Bloomberg reported a consortium of dealers including Warren Adelson, president of Adelson Galleries, and New York private dealers Alexander Parish and Robert Simon sold the painting to a company controlled by Bouvier for $80 million in 2013. Bouvier immediately re-sold the painting to Rybolovlev for $127.5 million.

NEW YORK - DECEMBER 5: Flags fly outside Sotheby's December 5, 2005 in New York City. Joe DiMaggio's 1936 rookie Yankee home uniform is being previewed for a December 10 auction. (Photo by Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

Sotheby’s insists it wasn’t involved in the resale of the painting. Photo: Michael Nagle/Getty Images.

According to the filing submitted by Sotheby’s, the consortium has threatened to sue the auction house for the difference. But Sotheby’s insists that it merely facilitated the transaction between the consortium and Bouvier and that it wasn’t involved in the subsequent resale to Rybolovlev.

In the filing the auction house emphasized, “Sotheby’s…derived no financial benefit whatsoever from the sale [to Rybolovlev],” adding it had “connected the parties to the sale at Bouvier’s request and facilitated the negotiation between them.”

“This is not a case seeking damages—our suit is a request for the court to set the record straight and silence any claims of wrongdoing that might be leveled against us by the sellers of Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi in a 2013 sale,” Sotheby’s said in an emailed statement to artnet News.

Yves Bouvier stepped down from his position running Luxembourg's Le Freeport in 2015. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Yves Bouvier bought the artwork and immediately resold it for a $47.5 million profit. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“The sellers, veteran art world professionals, enjoyed a significant windfall from their sale of the painting, a sale that they personally negotiated,” the statement continued. “Despite that windfall, they now assert they should have received tens-of-millions of dollars more because the buyer, Yves Bouvier, resold the painting for a higher price, even though Bouvier allegedly obtained that price through fraud, and that alleged fraud is the subject of ongoing criminal proceedings. The sellers suffered no loss, and certainly suffered no loss due to Sotheby’s.”

Parish supposedly purchased the work for under $10,000 at an estate sale in Louisiana in 2005. The work which was previously thought to have come from one of Leonardo’s students was subsequently “accepted as part of Leonardo’s catalogue,” according to the filing.


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