Due care and attention

It’s probably everyone’s dream to find a lost masterpiece in the attic, but it doesn’t always work out as expected.

In 1993, a painting came to light during a house clearance and the owners took the canvas to Christie’s in London for a valuation. They were told that the painting was probably from the ‘school of Titian’ but unlikely to actually be the work of the master himself.

Advised that cleaning the painting would be an unnecessary expense, the owners agreed the valuation and put the piece up for auction. It fetched the reserve price of £8,000.

The painting was sold again in 2001 when, after a little (unnecessary) cleaning, it was found to be ‘Salome with the Head of St John the Baptist’ and painted by Titian himself. The painting is worth £4 million.

The original owners, a brother and sister, brought a legal action against Christie’s for failure to competently research and advise on the painting’s value. Just as the action was due to be heard before the High Court, an out-of-court settlement was reached with Christie’s.

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