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Ms Marchig, the consignor of the portrait, is suing Christie's for 'wilful refusal and failure to investigate the plaintiff's believed attribution, to comply with its fiduciary obligations, negligence, breach of warrant to attribute the drawing correctly, and making false statements in connection with the auction and sale'.

The work was bought by New York dealer Kate Ganz and sold to Paris-based collector Peter Silverman for roughly the same price in 2007.

ATG understands that Madame Marchig filed the complaint in the Manhattan Federal Court on May 3 after compensation talks with Christie's broke down. Christie's have denied any wrongdoing.