PARIS (AFP).- A painting that a British businessman thought was by famed artist Marc Chagall is a "very bad copy", an expert Paris-based committee announced, though it ruled out any hasty destruction of the fake.
Martin Lang spent £100,000 (121,000 euros, $163,000) on what he believed was an original work by Russian-born artist Chagall in 1992, but learned it was a fake when his painting was tested for a BBC documentary and sent to the Chagall Committee for verification.
Lang was shocked when he found out that the committee intended to keep and destroy the painting -- a nude -- wishing instead that they mark the word "forgery" on the back of the canvas and return it to him.
Under French law, counterfeit work can be destroyed, and the committee told AFP late Tuesday that it could go to court if the 63-year-old property developer refused.
"It is a very bad copy of an original 1911 painting that is in a private collection. A stylistic analysis is enough to conclude it is fake," it said.
"Unlike what is suggested in the documentary, the association does not take any arbitrary measures and does not proceed with any destruction without prior agreement from the owner, or failing that, without court authorisation," it said in a statement.
"When the destruction is authorised, it is implemented by a bailiff who chooses the most suitable method according to the nature of the support of the counterfeit work."
Lang had insisted in an interview that the painting was his property -- fake or not -- and had pointed out that the canvas could be evidence against the forgers and should therefore be preserved.
Chagall, who died in France almost three decades ago, is considered a pioneer of modernism. His work can sell for millions.
The Chagall Committee is run by the artist's grandchildren to protect his reputation in the art world.
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