SDNY: Suit Alleging Christie’s Misidentification of da Vinci Work Time Barred

 While the art world is riddled with forgeries and stolen works or art, some dealers may also have to be mindful of the reputable auction houses which display their collections. Last week, District Judge John Koetl of the Southern District of New York, dismissed as time barred an action by Jeanne Marchig, and her charitable trust, against Christie’s — http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/02/02/DaVinci.pdf The suit alleged that Christie’s negligently failed to identify her piece of art as a valuable drawing done by Leonardo da Vinci.

The relevant facts are as follows. Jeanne Marchig approached the London location of the famed auction house seeking to consign and auction off a drawing she believed was composed by a late-Renaissance Italian painter. Christie’s resident old master drawing’s expert examined the piece and set an estimated value of $12,000-15,000. In January 1998, it ultimately sold at auction for $22,000. More than 11 years later, in July 2009, Marchig was approached by other experts in the art world who believed her previously sold drawing was actually the work of da Vinci, and could be valued as high as $100 million.

Marchig brought an action against Christie’s claiming the auction house had been careless and failed to properly investigate her drawing. While both sides engaged experts to determine the authenticity and true origin of the work, Christie’s moved to bar the claims as untimely, alleging the applicable statute of limitations (3 years – negligence, breach of fiduciary duty and 6 years – negligent appraisal) had long since expired. Judge Koetl agreed and dismissed the action as too much time had passed between the appraisal in question and the suit.

Special thanks to Chris O’Leary for his contributions to this post. For more information about it, or WCM’s fine art practice, please contact Bob Cosgrove at rcosgrove@wcmlaw.com.