March 14 2011

Here's a strange one - a full-length portrait has gone on display at a museum in Florida because;

'...the owners have spent more than 20 frustrating years unable to sell it for what they think it is worth. By placing it at the Lightner [Museum], they hope to inspire new interest.'

The owners, one of whom is Mr Paul Partel, believe their portrait of Louis XVIII by Antoine-Francois Callet is 'worth millions'. However, it was offered at auction by Christie's in 1991 with an estimate of $60-80,000, before being withdrawn by Mr Partel because; [More below]

Partel is convinced a conspiracy has existed in the art world to suppress the price of his painting, which he too says is worth "millions." On several occasions, he said, buyers have been close to paying him a price he considered fair, only to lose interest after consulting advisers. When it is suggested that the auction houses should want to get the highest price possible since their profit comes from a commission on the sale price, Partel points to what happened in 2001.

That year, the heads of Sotheby's and Christie's were indicted by federal prosecutors for conspiring to fix prices and cheat more than 130,000 customers over six years. The two houses paid $512 million to clients - $256 million apiece - as part of a class-action lawsuit...

Although Partel was not part of the class-action suit, he says the scandal is proof that his conspiracy theory makes sense.

Or it could be that the conspiring art advisers saw that the auction record for a work by Callet is just £145,000, and that the corpulent Louis XVIII is perhaps the least commercial of all the French kings in history. 

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