$40 pencil drawing is not a masterpiece after all

September 25, 1992

A Baltimore man who was told the sketch he bought for $40 might be a genuine Utrillo worth at least $7,000 didn't hit the jackpot after all.

Fred Salinger said this week that experts couldn't authenticate the pencil drawing of a Paris street scene.

As a result, Sotheby's gallery in New York decided not to offer it at an upcoming auction.

Mr. Salinger, a retired engineer who collects rugs, lamps and bargain art, bought the sketch in December at a Baltimore auction house.

A specialist in impressionist art at Sotheby's said photographs of the sketch were sent to Gallerie Petrides, the Paris gallery that handled Utrillo's work. Two experts there raised doubts about its pedigree.

"At Sotheby's, we have to stand behind a 100 percent guarantee of authenticity," said the specialist, who did not give her name. "In this case there is some question, so we can't handle it."

Maurice Utrillo, born in 1883 in Paris, produced thousands of oils, pencil sketches and prints before his death in 1955.

"I'll probably hang it up in the living room again and just leave it there," Mr. Salinger said of his sketch.

"It would have been an unexpected windfall, which I hadn't counted on anyway," he said. "I could still probably sell it some time. But I think I'll just hold onto it for the time being."

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