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Cologne auctioneers Lempertz had high hopes for their December 6 auction. The paintings, drawings and reliefs were realistically valued at over €5m and most of them had been hanging in museums in Germany and abroad for many decades. A second auction was planned for 2009.

For many years descendants of the artist, who died in 1943, have been fighting in the courts over the ownership of a major part of his oeuvre. On the one hand is Schlemmer’s daughter, now 85, with her son, on the other is the artist’s granddaughter.

In November the case finally reached the Federal Supreme Court, which found in favour of the granddaughter that – as neither side was willing to compromise – the works of art were to be sold and the proceeds divided.

Lempertz were chosen to hold the sale and managed to prepare the catalogue in record time.

Undeterred, Schlemmer’s daughter went to another court, in Munich, and managed to get a temporary injunction against holding the sale. This judgement was overturned shortly afterwards and the sale was on again.

Now, however, the Bavarian Supreme Court has reversed the decision of the lower court and on December 4 the sale was cancelled – for the moment at least.

The written judgement has not been published yet, so one cannot say on what grounds the court reached its decision.

By Jonathan Franks