La Bella Principessa Decision (Not So Pretty)

On Jan. 31, 2011, Judge Koeltl dismissed Jeanne Marchig’s case against Christie’s alleging five causes of action based on the 1998 sale of a Drawing now attributed to Leonardo da Vinci because they were time barred.

Causes of Action:

  1. breach of fiduciary duty;
  2. breach of warranty;
  3. negligence;
  4. negligent misrepresentation;
  5. conversion of the frame the Drawing was in when it was delivered to Christie’s.

Christie’s moved to dismiss on summary judgment, pursuant to FRCP 12 (b)(6).

Facts: In 1997, Marchig consigned a pen-and-ink Drawing in an Italian frame to Christie’s for sale. It was examined by Francois Borne, an old master drawings expert who attributed it to a German master drawing “in the taste of the Italian Renaissance.” The drawing, cataloged as “German, 19th Century,” was sold in 1998 for $21,850 without its frame. In 2009, more than a decade later, the Drawing was attributed to Leonard da Vinci. According to the complaint, now the Drawing is valued at over $100 million.

Reasoning:

  1. Under the New York law, a plaintiff seeing to recover monetary damages for a breach of fiduciary duty must file suit w/in 3 yrs from the time the cause of action accrues. N.Y. C.P.L.R. 214 (4). Here, the cause of action was precluded by the statute of limitations that expired in 2000 or 2001. 
  2. The limitation period for the breach of warranty claim varies between 4 and 6 yrs and the claim was brought untimely unless Plaintiff could prove grounds for tolling the applicable statute of limitations. N.Y. C.P.L.R. 213 (2)
  3. Statute of limitations to file a claim for negligence is 3 years within the time the injury is suffered. N.Y.C.P.L.R. 214 (4). Again, court held that events underlining the negligence claim took place no later than 1998.
  4. Cause of action for negligent appraisal or representation accrues on the date of the alleged misrepresentation and the statute of limitations to bring a claim is 6 years. N.Y.C.P.L.R. 213 (1).
  5. The New York statute of limitations for conversion and recovery of chattels is three years. N.Y. C.P.L.R. 214(3). And while the person who’s property had been converted first needs to make a request for it and the possessor refuse to return it to start the statute of limitation, the true owner cannot unreasonably delay to make the demand…. You can see where this is going.

Complaint: Marchig et al. v. Christie’s Inc., No. 10 Civ. 3624 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 13, 2010)
Decision: Marchig et al. v. Christie’s Inc., 10 Civ. 3624 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 31, 2011)

3 thoughts on “La Bella Principessa Decision (Not So Pretty)

  1. If Christie's Statute of Limitations defense had failed, I had sent them evidence that the mixed-media drawing on vellum, "La Bella Principessa", was not made by Leonardo da Vinci but rather by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, a 19th c. German artist who drew the same model on vellum. The decision still leaves the art world with the recent book on "LBP" by Martin Kemp and others, a clever document filled with bogus evidence.–Fred R. Kline

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