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Monday, 4 February, 2002, 15:09 GMT
Pig swill estate wins Poussin war
Auction house Sotheby's has made an out-of-court settlement after a lost painting by 17th Century French master Nicolas Poussin went unrecognised by its experts.

The move ends a two-and a-half year negligence action, brought by the estate of a pig swill magnate who collected antiques.

Executors of the estate of the late Ernest Onians, a Suffolk millionaire recluse, had claimed 4.5m from Sotheby's saying the auction house should have spotted who the artist was.

It is thought Mr Onians bought the painting at a country house sale for 12 in the late 1940s. He kept it in his chicken shed for 50 years.


Sotheby's put up the painting for auction in 1995, describing it as The Sack of Carthage by the Italian artist Pietro Testa, with an estimated value of 10,000-15,000.

It was bought for 155,000 by a London gallery on the instructions of leading art historian Sir Denis Mahon, who suspected there was more to the painting than met the eye.

The work was cleaned and restored, and the Louvre in Paris identified it as the missing Poussin masterpiece The Destruction and Sack of the Temple of Jerusalem.

In 1998 the picture was sold for 4.5 million to Jewish philanthropist Sir Jacob Rothschild and the Rothschild Foundation.


It was given to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, where it now hangs.

Mr Onians was known as The Pudding King after making his fortune in World War II by selling Tottenham Pudding - pig swill made from waste food.

He kept more than 500 paintings at home, a collection he built up after the war. His bedroom was filled with violins, and there were more than 50 clocks in the house.

Towards the end of his life, he became increasingly worried about theft, refusing entry to visitors and adopting increasingly scruffy clothes as a disguise.

A Sotheby's spokeswoman confirmed that an out-of-court settlement was reached towards the end of last week, but would not divulge the amount.

See also:

04 Feb 02 | Arts
Monks sell 8m art
01 Dec 01 | Arts
Reynolds painting fetches 10m
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