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In this picture taken on October 30, 2014, « The Cardsharps » by ‘follower of’ Caravaggio is displayed in the Museum of the Order of St John in central London. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL.

LONDON (AFP).- Sotheby’s on Friday won its legal battle with a man who claimed the auction house negligently led him to undersell a painting acquired by an expert who later declared it to be a Caravaggio.

Lancelot William Thwaytes sold the painting, known as « The Cardsharps« , to the partner of renowned collector Denis Mahon at a London auction in 2006 for £42,000 ($63,700, 55,000 euros) after Sotheby’s billed it as being the work of a « follower » of the Italian Renaissance master.

But a year later, at his 97th birthday party, Mahon claimed that the work was an original, painted around 1595, and insured it for £10 million.

Thwaytes sued Sotheby’s for negligence, claiming they hadn’t sufficiently examined whether the painting, which depicts a pair of card cheats fleecing a privileged young man, could be an original.

His lawyers said not enough top experts had been consulted and that pre-sale tests of the painting were inadequate.

Summing up at London’s High Court, judge Vivien Rose said the auction house’s experts had reasonably reached the conclusion that the quality of the painting « was not sufficiently high to indicate that it might be by Caravaggio« .

Sotheby’s Old Master experts maintain that the original painting is on display in the Kimbell Museum, Fort Worth, Texas.

Judge Rose ruled the auction house had been justified in relying on « the connoisseurship and expertise » of their own specialists in assessing the quality of the painting.

Thwaytes inherited the work after his family bought it for a reported fee of £140 in 1962.

Mahon died in 2011, aged 100, and the painting is currently owned by his heirs. It is on loan to a museum in Clerkenwell in London. © 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse


In this picture taken on November 21, 2014, Lancelot Thwaytes leaves the Rolls Building in London. AFP PHOTO / JUSTIN TALLIS.