Sotheby's sued over Winslow Homer ownership

October 29 2013

Image of Sotheby's sued over Winslow Homer ownership

Picture: Standard

The Evening Standard reports that Sotheby's are being sued over the ownership of a watercolour by Winslow Homer (above). Regular readers may remember the picture from our BBC1 programme 'Fake or Fortune?' Sotheby's has been holding onto the painting ever since 2009, when two families claimed owneship, and are now being taken to court by a descendant of the sitters in the painting, Shirley Rountree.

To recap quickly: the painting was allegedly found on a rubbish tip in Ireland about 25 years ago by a man going fishing; he then gave it to his daughter, who took it onto the Antiques Roadshow; the picture was then researched by us for 'Fake or Fortune?', and we established the identity of the sitters, who were the children of the Governor of the Bahamas, Sir Henry Blake. The daughter then decided to sell the painting at Sotheby's New York; but just an hour before the sale, Sotheby's said they had a rival claim of ownership, from Mrs Rountree, who said the picture had been stolen from her house all those years ago.

It all made for dramatic telly, but since then Sotheby's have kept hold of the painting, being unsure who to give it back to. And now they're being sued by Mrs Rountree, who says the picture is hers. There was never, however, any record of the picture being stolen. So part of the problem was that nobody could yet definitively prove ownership. 

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