Sotheby’s Moves to Block Lawsuit Over Controversial Leonardo da Vinci Painting

December 3, 2016 5:00 am
Christ Painting Involved in Potential Fraud Case
(VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Sotheby's Preemptive Lawsuit Against Fraud Case
(Robert Caplin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)


Realclearlife wrote a story about Swiss businessman and art curator Yves Bouvier back in May. Bouvier has done brisk business for galleries, and set up a number of Sotheby’s private sales, but his good fortune hasn’t come without whispers of shady business practices, and even fraud.

So it’s not an entirely big shock that he’s being fingered as a player in a potential lawsuit involving a famous Leonardo da Vinci painting, three art traders, Sotheby’s auction house, and gobs of money.

Christ Painting Involved in Potential Fraud Case
(VCG Wilson/Corbis via Getty Images)


In March 2014, The New York Times published a piece about the sale of the da Vinci, known as the “Salvator Mundi,” and where it ranked among the top sales in auction history. For one, it had been bought for less than $10,000 by art trader Alexander Parish at a U.S. estate sale in the mid-2000s. He and two other traders then pulled off an auction world coup, selling the 26-inch-high painting to a private collector for between $75 million and $80 million, a transaction brokered by Sotheby’s. One would suspect that a markup of that size would make any art trader’s year.

But that anonymous buyer? None other than Sotheby’s middle-man Yves Bouvier, who then immediately turned around and sold the painting for $47.5 million more. The second buyer was Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, with whom Bouvier had done business in the past (ironically, Rybolovlev has gone after Bouvier in court himself, alleging that he was defrauded to the tune of billions of dollars).

Parish and his cohorts threatened to sue Sotheby’s for what they believe is fraud and to get the additional money they believe they deserve back from the second sale. Sotheby’s has preemptively filed a lawsuit to block the traders’ case, claiming to have done nothing wrong.

Sotheby’s lawyer, as quoted in the Times, says that “the traders, apparently experiencing seller’s remorse, are trying to gain the benefit of a subsequent sale price that Sotheby’s had nothing to do with.”

Whom should we believe? To read more about the court battle heating up, click here. For more on the painting, watch the CNN report below.


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