A Mayfair art dealer has paid out millions of pounds to Sotheby’s after the sale of a 17th century painting which turned out to be fake, High Court documents reveal.

Mark Weiss, a leading fine art dealer, settled out of court with the auction house two weeks ago over a fraudulent painting by the Dutch Golden Age artist Frans Hals, which was sold to US billionaire Richard Heedon for $10.7 million (£8.2m) in 2011. 

The painting, entitled Portrait of a Gentleman, is said to have been sold by Mr Weiss and Fairlight Art Ventures, a company owned by hedge fund manager and art collector David Kowitz.

However in July 2016 Sotheby’s – who acted as an “exclusive agent” in the sale of the fake painting – determined that it was a counterfeit and was forced to fully reimburse Mr Heedon. 

The London auction house is now seeking to recoup the costs, successfully securing £3.2 million from Mr Weiss in an out of court settlement last month. 

Details of the settlement were provided to Mr Justice Robin Knowles at a hearing in London on Monday.

David Foxton QC, for Sotheby’s, said in written submissions that an expert in the scientific analysis of works of art reached the “unequivocal finding that the painting was a modern fake”.

The barrister said scientific conservator James Martin found that a particle of paint from the work “contained a modern plastic, a formaldehyde resin, first produced more than 250 years after the death of Hals”.


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