Tearful collector gives testimony at Knoedler trial

Eleanore De Sole said she went into a “shaking frenzy” when she read that another work sold by Knoedler was suspected to be fake


The collector Eleanore De Sole gave her testimony, sometimes tearfully, as the first week of the Knoedler forgery trial closed on Friday 29 January, adding an emotional element to a case heavy on insider art knowledge and expert testimony. Eleanore and her husband Domenico sued the Knoedler Gallery, its former director Ann Freedman, and its owner, for selling them a painting purported to be by Rothko for $8.3m, which turned out to be a forgery. Her testimony continued in court today.

Mrs De Sole said she began to suspect the work was a fake when she read a newspaper article in early December 2011. (This was when news broke of the London hedge-funder Pierre Lagrange’s lawsuit alleging that Knoedler sold him a fake Pollock.) “I read the provenance and it was exactly what we had been told by Ann Freedman and the Knoedler Gallery. I went into a shaking frenzy… I cried”.  

While Mrs De Sole repeated much of her husband’s account, her testimony also added new information: Freedman said the owner “would really love to have it in a collection that wouldn’t be sold”, De Sole said.

She also said she sent Freedman an email on 15 January 2008, requesting an updated appraisal of the work for her insurance company. The jury was shown a letter from Freedman saying the painting’s value had appreciated, to $9m. The timing of this email could hurt the defendants’ case.

Earlier in the week, the jury heard testimony from Freedman’s assistant Melissa de Medeiros that Freedman requested an “emergency meeting” with the collector on 14 January (the day before Mrs De Sole’s email), because the Dedalus Foundation, which maintains the Robert Motherwell catalogue raisonné, had been “suggesting that we are selling and trading work that is counterfeit”.