Italian count wars with London gallery over Dutch masterpieces

A portrait of Count Alessandro Farnese by Titian and Giovanni Volpi (sources Wiki Commons and Stephen Mitchell at blog_
A portrait of Count Alessandro Farnese by Titian and Giovanni Volpi (sources Wiki Commons and Stephen Mitchell at blog)

Art world lawsuits can be more tangled than an octopus’s orgy and a new lawsuit brought forward by Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata is no exception.

It was apparently very good to collaborate. Giuseppe Volpi (1877-1947) was governor of the colony of Tripolitania, founder of the Venice Film Festival and Benito Mussolini’s finance minister in the 1920s. Those privileged positions allowed him to build up quite a valuable collection of fine art, some of which was inherited by his son, Count Giovanni Volpi di Misurata. And now the younger Volpi, a renowned car-racing team manager, is suing a London-based dealer for breach of a partnership agreement over the paintings by 16th Century Dutch artist Anthonis Mor, according to Bloomberg.

A self-portrait of Antonis Mor and Giuseppe Volpi (source: Wiki Commons)
A self-portrait of Antonis Mor and Giuseppe Volpi (source: Wiki Commons)

Meanwhile, the dealer — Old and Modern Masters Ltd — not only denies wrongdoing, he’s firing back with questions about how to family acquired the art.

One painting is question is the “Ermine Portrait,” a painting of Count Alessandro Farnese dressed in an ermine-lined embroidered jacket. The other is the “Armor Portrait,” a painting of Count Alessandro Farnese dressed in half armor. Vopi claims the gallery lied to him when they said that the “Ermine Portrait” sold to Hans Adam II Prince of Liechtenstein in 2015 for roughly $5.3 million. He claims he was deceived once again when”Armor Portrait” was to be sold to a Florida-based dealer for roughly $1.7 million.

Complicating the issue it that Vopi bought the gallery dealing his work in 2016. He claims that the gallery intentionally undersold his art. The gallery says in a countersuit that it got top dollar for paintings that couldn’t be properly verified by independent experts, according to Bloomberg.

One thing is for sure, one unlucky barrister has a lot of work to do. [Bloomberg]