Brooks vs. Sotheby's
This case concerns the “Allegorical Portrait of a Lady as Diana Wounded by Cupid," by 18th century French artist Louis-Michel van Loo. In a lawsuit filed in a Califormia Superior Court on 21 March 2013, Steven Brooks alleges that Sotheby’s fraudulently sold him the work in July 2004. The painting was at one time owned by Hermann Goering, founder of the Nazi Gestapo, and may have been looted by the Nazis. Brooks argues that Sotheby’s had either failed to acquire or failed to share with him the artwork’s Nazi past.
The painting’s provenance came to light when Brooks sought to consign the work for sale at Christie’s in October 2010. It was then that he was informed by experts at the auction house that Goering had acquired the artwork in August 1939. Christie’s could not however establish with certainty whether the painting was obtained illegally by Goering and refused to sell the work. Brooks returned to Sotheby’s to sell the painting but Sotheby’s own research was unable to establish the painting’s provenance sufficiently to accept the work for auction.
Brooks requested a refund for the purchase price as the questionable provenance and Nazi connection cloud the title and render the painting worthless for resale. Sotheby’s declined and are yet to file a response to Brook’s complaint.
Louis-Michel van Loo, Portrait of a Lady as Diana Wounded by Cupid