Pierre Bergé’s Foundation Withdraws a Mysterious Painting the Fashion Mogul Once Attributed to Manet From Its Sale at Sotheby’s

An anonymous claimant wanted a piece of the profits from the painting's sale if it were ever attributed to Manet.

Pierre Bergé said that this 19th-century French painting was by Edouard Manet. Courtesy of Sotheby's Paris.

The late French collector Pierre Bergé used to tell people that Edouard Manet had painted the 19-century canvas of a young boy with a dog, though it wasn’t formally authenticated as such. Now, it has been abruptly pulled from the “Pierre Bergé: From One Home to Another” sale at Sotheby’s Paris, where it was set to be auctioned this past Monday, attributed to a “19th century French school.” The first session of the five-part sale was also postponed by a day after a judge placed a restriction on 18 lots.

Sotheby’s told the Art Newspaper that the “proceedings pending on a very limited number of lots” had been “fully resolved,” but the painting that Bergé once attributed to Manet, had been withdrawn “at the request of the consignor.”

The litigation reportedly involved an anonymous claimant who had signed an agreement in the early 2000s with Bergé and his partner, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, promising the unknown party, identified only as a Parisian broker, a share of the profits should the painting be authenticated as a Manet. It appears that did not happen, however, as it carried a pre-sale estimate of just €3,000–5,000 ($3,500–5,900).

As of press time, neither Sotheby’s nor the Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent Foundation had responded to artnet News’s request for comment.

Pierre Bergé in his office in 1999 with an Andy Warhol portrait of Yves Saint Laurent. Photo courtesy of Sotheby's Paris, ©Derek Hudson/Getty Images/the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Pierre Bergé in his office in 1999 with an Andy Warhol portrait of Yves Saint Laurent. Courtesy of Sotheby’s Paris, ©Derek Hudson/Getty Images/the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Touted by Sotheby’s as a “mysterious composition” and a “favorite” of Bergé’s in the lot description, the painting’s “partially opened mouth and questioning eyes along with the white coloration on the right side of the face (giving the impression of a mask) give the composition a strange effect, reinforced by the dominant cold blue tones.”

Bergé, who died in 2017, co-founded the Yves Saint Laurent fashion empire. Following Saint Laurent’s death in 2008, Bergé auctioned works from their art collection at Christie’s. The $483 million sale set a record for a private collection at auction.

The current sale, which ranges from antiquities to contemporary art, was announced in June and features almost 1,000 lots, previously kept at Bergé’s homes in Normandy, Provence, Morocco, and Paris. It ends this afternoon.

Two lots have already sold in excess of $2 million: Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ’s The Harem’s Gate: Souvenir of Cairo at €2.4 million ($2.79 million) and Ludwig Deutsch’s Guarding the Gate at €2.28 million ($2.66 million).

Proceeds will benefit the Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent Foundation and the Fondation Jardin Majorelle.

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