Howard Kennedy successfully defends art dealer in dispute over the attribution of an 18th century French painting

"18th century French painting.

On Friday 2 December 2022 the High Court handed down judgment in Amanda Feilding or Charteris, Countess of Wemyss and March and Vilma Ramsay (suing as trustees of the Wemyss Heirlooms Trust) v Simon C Dickinson Ltd.

The trustees of the Wemyss Heirlooms Trust brought a claim for £4.5m in damages against Simon C Dickinson Ltd (SCD). They alleged negligence when a painting that SCD had sold for them in 2014 for £1.15m was later sold by the buyer for a greater sum. The case concerned a painting attributed to Chardin and Studio, entitled Le Bénédicité.

Legal Director, James Wingfield, together with Solicitor Jamie Rhodes and Trainee Solicitor Rufus Scholefield, represented SCD in its successful defence to the claim.  The claim brought by the trustees was dismissed in its entirety.

The court found that SCD was able to attribute the painting to "Chardin and Studio" and to sell it on that basis and that this was obvious and logical. The description of the painting in the leading expert's catalogue raisonné for the artist as a “copie retouchée” was entirely consistent with this attribution in the court's view.  The sale price achieved of £1.15m was also found to be appropriate.  The court in the process acknowledged that Mr Dickinson is a recognised expert in old master paintings.

James Wingfield said: "The court was extremely unattracted by the idea of a 'duty to check' with the leading expert on a given artist.  An art professional is able to act on their own assessment of the quality of an artwork, provided it is within their existing sphere of expertise. 

On the facts of this case, consulting the leading expert would have been a 'spin of the roulette wheel', as it could have resulted in a downgrading to the attribution of the painting."

Simon C Dickinson Ltd was also represented by barristers Henry Legge KC and Eliza Eagling of 5 Stone Buildings.



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