Sotheby’s wants a refund for a fake painting they accidentally sold

Parmigianino, Saint Jerome. Now thought to be a fake. (credit: Sotheby’s)

Five years ago, Sotheby’s auction house sold a painting they thought was by Old Master Girolamo Francesco Maria Mazzola, otherwise known as Parmigianino. It fetched $842,500.

The story might have ended happily there, except it turns out the painting — dubbed “Saint Jerome” — might not have been by Parmigianino after all. Sotheby’s sent it to authenticity experts, who concluded it’s a forgery made almost 400 years after the Italian artist died in 1540. Oops.

The auction house filed a complaint in Manhattan’s federal court on Tuesday, and they are looking to be reimbursed by the seller of “Saint Jerome,” reports Bloomberg.

The seller, identified as Luxembourg resident Lionel de Saint Donat-Pourrieres, received $672,000 from Sotheby’s (net of the buyer’s premium), but has “refused to return the proceeds of the sale,” the company said in court papers. The auction house said it is giving the buyer a full refund.

This isn’t the first time Sotheby’s has had to issue a refund. Last year, Sotheby’s returned a whopping $10 million to the buyer of a painting thought to be by Dutch portrait painter Frans Hals, after it determined the work was a fake. [Bloomberg]