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Painting wasn't a work of master

PUBLISHED: 12:09 11 March 2002 | UPDATED: 11:30 03 March 2010

A "VAN Dyck" painting bought by an American art collector for £1.5 million from a top dealer was not by the Flemish master and worth only a fraction of the small fortune paid, a top judge has ruled.

A "VAN Dyck" painting bought by an American art collector for £1.5 million from a top dealer was not by the Flemish master and worth only a fraction of the small fortune paid, a top judge has ruled.

The portrait, which once graced the walls of Suffolk's Ickworth House, was sold in 1996 by the previous Marquess of Bristol along with the rest of the contents of his palatial East Wing apartments and should have cost just £275,000.

Mr Justice Buckley ruled at the High Court that Texan businessman Richard Drake was a victim of his own crooked buying agent and refused to order the dealers, Thomas Agnew and Sons of London, to give him his money back.

Mr Drake had brought proceedings against the Old Master specialists and maintained an oil painting of 17th Century court favourite James Stuart, Duke of Lennox and Richmond, sold to him in 1998 as being by Anthony Van Dyck.

"But he has since been advised that it is not and he wants his money back," said Mr Justice Buckley.

Rejecting the claim, the judge after hearing doubts expressed by top art expert, Sir Oliver Millar, found the painting was not by the master and was instead a fine early studio copy, with a market value he assessed at £275,000.

He said he had "some sympathy" for Mr Drake and that all Agnews had done was to express its "opinion" that the picture was an original and it was entitled to do that.

In his ruling the judge said dealer Steven Callan was "dishonest" and failed to disclose vital facts to Mr Drake because they might have threatened his "very substantial" commission.

The court heard Mr Callan concealed two "very important' words on a photocopy of a brochure about the painting which he sent to Mr Drake. This gave the impression it had been in the Marquess of Bristol's collection until the sale to Mr Drake, whereas the original correctly indicated it left that collection in 1996, when Agnews bought it for £30,000 at a Sotheby's sale at Ickworth.


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