Sotheby’s Sues London Dealer Mark Weiss Over Frans Hals Forgery

It's one canvas in a massive Old Master forgery scandal.

Frans Hals, Portrait of a Man, one of a series of Old Master works sold by a French dealer that authorities now believe may be forgeries. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

International auctioneer Sotheby’s has filed a suit in a London court against dealer Mark Weiss and collector David Kowitz, founder of Indus Capital, over a Frans Hals painting it sold in 2011. The work, later revealed to be a forgery, is one of a number of such fakes to have rocked the Old Master world in recent months.

“While we always prefer to settle matters without legal action, the sellers have refused to make good on their contractual obligations and we have been left with no other option than to take appropriate action to enforce our rights,” said Sotheby’s in a statement provided to artnet News.

The house had sold the painting, Portrait of a Gentleman, in a private sale, brokered by Weiss, for some $10 million. The painting later was revealed to have come from French dealer Guiliano Ruffini, who offered dealers a number of Old Master artworks that have since been revealed to be fakes.

Sotheby’s, which determined the painting to be a fake through technical analysis, has since reimbursed the buyer and in turn seeks payment from Weiss. Sotheby’s analysis was undertaken by Orion Analytical; testimony by James Martin, the principal of that firm, was essential in unmasking fakes sold by New York gallery Knoedler & Co.

Sotheby’s since purchased Orion, and it has engaged Ashok Roy, former director of collections and director of science at the National Gallery in London to take over technical analysis.

Weiss did not immediately respond to an email from artnet News, but told the Antiques Trade Gazette that the house had “repeatedly refused” to allow his experts to inspect the canvas.

Not so, says Sotheby’s in a statement given to artnet News:

The painting was with the experts Mr. Weiss had instructed for a four month period and was subject to extensive testing by them. Mr. Weiss later suggested that additional tests be conducted by a new group of conservators, but Sotheby’s concluded that none of these further tests would change its conclusion.

Weiss was caught up in another scandal in 2011, when he admitted to having put out misinformation against a rival dealer, Philip Mould, alleging marital infidelity and financial troubles, as reported by the Telegraph.

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