French committee rules Brit's 'Chagall' painting a fake; it may be burned

In this handout photograph made available by Martin Lang in London Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, a painting owned by him is seen. When British collector Martin Lang submitted the painting to a French committee, he was hoping to find out if it was an authentic work by Marc Chagall. But not only did the Chagall Committee declare the painting a forgery, it said Lang's painting should be burned under strict French laws that protect artists' works. Lang, 63, said Monday he was frustrated with the decision but he still hopes the painting will be returned to him. "They're holding on to it. It is bizarre ... it's almost vindictive," Lang told the BBC. "It's basically my property. I just couldn't understand why the committee would be so draconian." The businessman bought the watercolor of a reclining nude woman for 100,000 pounds (US$170,000) in 1992, believing it to be an authentic Chagall dating from around 1909 to 1910. (AP Photo/Martin Lang)

LONDON - A British collector may see an expensive painting burned because a French committee has determined it is not an authentic work by Marc Chagall.

Art lover Martin Lang told BBC radio Monday he still hopes the painting will be returned.

He bought the painting of a nude woman for 100,000 pounds in 1992 believing it to be an authentic Chagall. Lang's son recently called in experts from a BBC show about fakes and forgeries to determine if it was real.

When it was sent to the Chagall Committee in Paris for a final ruling, the committee said it was a fake and would be destroyed under French law.

The committee is run by the Russian-born artist's grandchildren to protect his legacy.

BBC host Fiona Bruce said Lang, a 63-year-old property developer from the northern city of Leeds, was not told that his painting would be destroyed if it was judged to be a fake.

"The only way for Martin to authenticate his painting was with the Chagall Committee, he had no other choice. But it was never made clear to him that if they didn't like the look of his painting that they would burn it. How can anyone ever approach this committee with a painting again if this is how they react?" she said.

Chagall's works often sell for millions of pounds. The artist died in 1985.

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