A London art dealer who advised a British aristocrat to sell an 18th century French masterpiece for a fraction of its actual worth did not act negligently, a court has ruled.
The court ruled in favour of Simon Dickinson after Amanda Fielding, Countess of Wemyss and March, sued the art dealer over claims he acted negligently in advising her to sell a painting by French master Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin at a “fraction” of the price it later achieved.
Dickinson advised Fielding to sell Chardin’s Le Bénédicité for £1.15m in July 2014 – just months before it sold for an estimated $10.5m (£8.5m) in January 2015.
The Chardin painting had formed part of the Weymyss family’s extensive art collection for centuries, after Fielding’s ancestors first bought the centuries old masterpiece in 1751.
Fielding however began seeking to sell parts of the Weymyss collection to meet financial obligations and fund maintenance of the family’s ancestral Gosford House, near Edinburgh, which she inherited from her father in 2009.
Following a meeting with Dickinson in 2014, the Weymyss collection later agreed to sell Le Bénédicité to Stockholm art dealer Verner Åmell for £1.15m, as a painting by “Chardin and Studio”.
The following day, a “deep clean” of the painting carried out at Åmell’s request uncovered Chardin’s own signature beneath a “film of grime” on the painting, revealing it to be an original by the French master himself.
The Chardin painting was later sold to French investment banker Michel David-Weill in return for $7.5m in cash and a painting by French artist Antoine Watteau.
An investigation later found Dickinson had failed to x-ray the Chardin painting for a signature and failed to market the art piece to any other buyers, including museums.
Dickinson also failed to show the painting to leading Chardin expert Pierre Rosenberg, despite knowing the art historian well.
A court however ruled there is no evidence Dickinson knew the Chardin artwork could have been sold at a higher price, as a judge determined there is no evidence of negligence.