“Sotheby’s respects and maintains the confidentiality of its consignors and buyers, and does not comment on matters that are not of public record,” the statement said, adding: “This particular work was known to the market, and was traded multiple times prior to the auction in 1994.”
The Chagall hung for years on the wall of the bedroom that Ms. Clegg shared with her husband, Alfred John Clegg, before going into storage when she moved to a smaller home. That’s where it was, she said, when Sotheby’s suggested in early 2020 that if she was interested in selling items, her Chagall, among others, might do well. The work was later shipped to the Comité Marc Chagall, a panel of experts that was founded in 1988 and which makes decisions on the authenticity of works attributed to the artist.
In late 2020, the panel released its findings regarding her work. In a letter to Ms. Clegg, Meret Meyer, one of Chagall’s granddaughters and a member of the panel, reported that it had unanimously found the work to be inauthentic, adding that it is an amalgam of several other works including “Le couple au bouquet,” from about 1952, and “Les amoureux au cheval” from 1961.
Ms. Clegg’s painting included “recurrent iconographic elements of Chagall’s work,” including a bouquet, lovers, a horse profile, a rooster profile, a village silhouette and a crescent moon, the committee wrote, but those lacked “real presence,” according to a translation provided by Ms. Clegg’s lawyer. The letter went on to say that Chagall’s heirs were requesting the “judicial seizure” of the painting “so that the work may be destroyed.”
In France, courts have recognized the authority of expert panels to destroy works determined to be counterfeit.