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Perth art dealer wins £12,500 compensation in legal spat over stolen artwork

Ian Ingram.
Ian Ingram.

An art dealer has made a 1,000% profit on an aristocrat’s painting after winning a legal battle with the auction house which sold it to him.

Ian Ingram, 72, has won £12,500 compensation for the 18th century Old Master which turned out to have been taken from an aristocrat’s collection.

Mr Ingram claimed the painting – for which he paid £1,100 for – was by Transylvanian Saxon artist Tobias Stranover and was worth £25,000.

Still Life With Fruit and Parrot by Tobias Stranover.

He sued Iain Smith Auctioneers & Valuers for the £23,632 profit he believes he lost when the police took the painting away to return to its unwitting owner, Lady Lingard.

Perth Sheriff Court has now been told that the auction house has agreed to pay Mr Ingram £12,500 and the man who put it into auction will pay them the same amount.

In a further twist, the court has been told Mr Ingram did not share an independent valuation during the court battle which showed the true worth of the painting as just £10,000.

Although the parties have settled the main action over Stranover’s work, Still Life – Fruit and Parrot, they are now locked in a bitter battle over who should pay the costs of the court case.

Counsel Lawrence Kennedy, for the auction house, said: “It was done consciously to prevent the other party having access to the painting. He deliberately and strategically withheld that from the other parties.

“We know why now – because they were claiming £25,000 for a painting that was only worth £10,000. That is why.”

Dealer and author Mr Ingram spent £1,100 buying the 18th century oil painting during a sale at an auction room in Scone eight years ago.

His plan to sell the painting on for a huge profit was scuppered when police officers turned up at his door to inform him the painting had been stolen.

Mr Ingram, from Perth, said: “I buy regularly from auction. And there, in front of the rostrum, was this painting – it did not seem like something you usually see.

“I arranged to bid for it on the phone and, realising its worth, I kept it. I really loved the picture.”

The court was told the painting – since returned to Lady Lingard – was entered into an auction at Perth Aerodrome in April 2010 and purchased by Mr Ingram.

With a buyer’s premium and VAT he paid a total of £1,358.

The auctioneer did not know the seller did not own the painting and Mr Ingram did not know who the seller was.

Police contacted him in January 2013 as they probed its alleged theft and took possession of it as evidence.

The man accused of the theft was not prosecuted and the painting was returned to Lady Lingard.

Sheriff William Wood said he would make his decision on who should bear the costs of the legal action at a later date.

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