French

Versailles: fake chairs and a French antiques scandal

A royal scandal has struck the Palace of Versailles after the arrest of two respected antiques dealers on suspicion of selling fake furniture to the acclaimed French chateau. The French State payed 2.7 million euros for the purchase, a sale said to be organised by chair expert Bill Pallot, who was arrested along with Parisian gallery owner Laurent Kraemer.

Art expert Didier Rykner points out the differences online: “Look at this one, we see clearly that it is much more worked, more detailed, I’m sorry… Bill Pallot ordered this fake furniture and then it came either by the big antique shops in Paris, either by auction house or direct.”

A Parisian carpenter specialising in old furniture reportedly made the fakes. It comes at a time in which Versailles wants to refurnish its halls with patronage money.

The French art fraud office OCBC is currently investigating the crime, one which has sent the antiques world into a spin and could overshadow the Biennale des Antiquaires art fair set to open this weekend in Paris.

New evidence in stolen Picassos case

Art dealer Olivier Thomas has been placed under investigation once again as new evidence has emerged in the ongoing investigation into stolen Picasso paintings. Last year, Picasso’s stepdaughter Catherine Hutin-Blay accused the dealer, who’s associated with former Freeport head Yves Bouvier, of stealing three works from her. Hutin-Blay alleged that three paintings, including two works by her stepfather that she had entrusted to Bouvier for storage, had been stolen and surreptitiously sold to Dmitry Rybolovlev without her consent.

Thomas was detained by French authorities in May of 2015, and the Brigade de Repression du Banditisme, a special unit of the French Ministry of the Interior, took over the investigation. But Thomas evaded formal charges in his first appearance at court on 9 November, 2015. Back then, he insisted that the works in question “meant nothing to him” and that he had never seen them before. He then emerged from the judge’s office as assisted witness. However, the investigation was still ongoing at the time.

Now, investigators who seized and searched his digital devices, found photos of the disputed artworks on his laptop that he had apparently taken himself.

Thomas was placed under investigation once again on July 6, in Paris by judge Isabelle Rich-Flament for “abuse of trust, fraud, concealment, and laundering” to the detriment of Hutin-Blay.

The judge had summoned Thomas for renewed questioning, and reminded him of his insistence that he had “never seen these pictures” before. The Justice maintained that Thomas had seen the works on multiple occasions, and that his feigned confusion is the crux of the problem.

Nazi-looted Dutch Old Master pulled from auction

Vienna’s im Kinsky auction house has removed Portrait of a Man, a painting by Dutch Old Master Bartholomeus van der Helst, from its April 12 and 13 sales. The lot was pulled at the request of the French government, which believes the painting was looted by Nazis, according to Agence France-Presse.

The painting was once part of the collection of Adolphe Schloss, a Jewish art collector who lived in Paris. The Nazis seized the collection in April 1943 after invading France, and earmarked Portrait of a Man for the planned the Führermuseum in Linz. The canvas was recovered by Allied forces following the war, but was reportedly “stolen from an Allied art collecting point” afterward, the Art Newspaper notes.