Caravaggio in court: Sotheby’s sued over misattribution of painting later valued at £10m

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Sotheby’s accused of misattributing Caravaggio work to one of his followers


A bitter dispute over a painting bought for £140 five decades ago reaches the High Court today – with some of the world’s most prominent Caravaggio experts lining up to take sides.

Sotheby’s is being sued over claims that it misattributed a work – The Cardsharps – to a follower of Caravaggio rather than the Italian painter himself, costing the seller millions of pounds.

The painting was sold through the auction house in 2006 by a descendant of a Royal Navy surgeon who first acquired it in 1962. Sir Denis Mahon, a British collector, secured the painting for a hammer price of £42,000 – but then declared the work to be an original and valued it at £10m.

In papers filed at the court, the seller, Lancelot Thwaytes, claims that the auction house did not consult enough experts or sufficiently test the painting before the sale.


The painting is nearly identical to another under the same name on display at Kimbell Art Museum in Texas. The paintings show a young, privileged man falling victim to a pair of cheats during a game of cards.

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