Art law News USA

Settlement reached in legal tussle over controversial bronzes

Authenticity of the plaster sculptures used to make the works will not be tested by the court

A court battle launched last June over a series of bronzes made from plaster sculptures of wax originals by Edgar Degas has come to an end. A lawsuit brought by the US dealer Walter Maibaum's company against the Canadian businessman Yank Barry was settled on 18 March. The settlement’s terms are confidential, says Barry’s lawyer Michael Califano, although he adds that it was to “the mutual satisfaction of the parties”.

Maibaum’s company, the Degas Sculpture Project, alleged that Barry and his charitable foundation breached contracts to purchase as many as ten, 74-piece sets of the bronzes, which the company said were worth $20m per set. It also asserted that Barry violated the terms of a confidentiality agreement in which the parties agreed not to disclose research and documentation related to the sculptures’ discovery.

The previously unknown plaster sculptures were found in 2004, at the Valsuani foundry near Paris. Maibaum commissioned the foundry to make bronze versions of the sculptures the following year.

Experts have disagreed on whether the plaster sculptures were made during Degas’s lifetime, but many have refused to go on record for fear of being sued if they question the sculptures’ authenticity. Because of the settlement, this issue will not be answered by the court. The lawsuit included a petition to have the plaster sculptures forensically tested but Eric Buikema, the lawyer for the Degas Sculpture Project, said this had not yet begun.

For more on this case, see our April print edition, available to subscribers next week

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