The disputed Frans Hals painting, 'Portrait of a Gentleman'.

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Sotheby’s was due to begin a High Court trial with Mark Weiss Limited on April 1 but the parties have settled with Weiss paying $4.2m to Sotheby’s without any admission of liability. 

Sotheby’s first filed its claim in London's High Court against Mark Weiss Limited and business partner Fairlight Art Ventures in February 2017. 

The case surrounds the Frans Hals painting, Portrait of a Gentleman, supplied to Sotheby’s by Weiss and subsequently sold in 2011 to a US buyer in a $10m private deal. 

In 2016 Sotheby’s reimbursed the US buyer the transaction fee and in 2017 Sotheby’s said it had completed “in-depth technical analysis which established that the work was undoubtedly a forgery” with traces of a green pigment invented in the 20th century found in the picture.

In a statement issued on April 1, Weiss said he “remains convinced of the authenticity of the work based on his own expert's independent scientific testing to that effect, which would have been produced in evidence at the trial had it proceeded and the overwhelming support of connoisseurs since the discovery of the work in 2010”.

Ongoing court case

The trial is still going ahead between Sotheby’s and Fairlight Art Ventures, Weiss’ partner in the original acquisition in 2010 and the subsequent sale through Sotheby’s in 2011. The statement added that the court will also “deal with issues arising between Mark Weiss Limited and Fairlight in connection with the claim”.

The ‘Hals’ painting is thought to have been previously owned by Frenchman Giulano Ruffini who has been linked to a number of paintings that have had their attribution questioned. 

They include a picture sold by Colnaghi as a Cranach to the Prince of Liechtenstein in 2013 and an oil attributed to Parmigianino, sold at Sotheby’s in 2012.

A statement from Sotheby’s said: “We are pleased to have resolved this litigation with Mark Weiss and we remain confident in our position against Fairlight Art Ventures. Clients transact with Sotheby’s because they know we will keep our promises if problems arise: we did so in the case of the painting Portrait of a Gentleman, which Sotheby’s concluded was a fake and not by Frans Hals.”