Politician intervenes to save fake Chagall painting from the flames

A Yorkshire MEP is attempting to prevent a fake Marc Chagall painting owned by one of his constituents being burned in front of a French magistrate.

The bizarre casework follows the confirmation that Nude 1909-10, a work attributed to the revolutionary modernist in 1992, contained phthalocyanine blue – a kind of paint which was only invented in the 1930s.

Its owner, Martin Lang, spent £100,000 on the painting but now finds it could be burned outright in front of a magistrate under an archaic French law.

The Chagall committee, headed by the artists' two granddaughters, is insisting on the destruction of the artwork.

But Edward McMillan-Scott, the Liberal Democrat Yorkshire MEP and vice-president of the European parliament, has written to the internal markets commissioner Michel Bernier pleading for a stay of execution.

"I write to ask you to protect my constituent's rights in this matter by asking the Chagall Committee to take no action while some less drastic solution is found," he wrote.

"At the very least, the picture may be evidence in a future criminal proceedings."

Art expert Philip Mould, who appeared with Lang on the BBC1 programme Fake Or Fortune?, said he thought the committee was being "bombastic in the extreme".

McMillan-Scott has claimed it would be "vandalism" for the painting to be destroyed, too.

He commented: "By all means let's take decisive action to deal with forgeries, but we should be punishing the perpetrators not the victims.

"As it happens, I prefer the 'fake' to the original, as it is more typical of Chagall's style."

The authenticity of Lang's painting was called into doubt after later editions of the art book which had featured it removed the image altogether.

Rather than ignoring the problem Lang attempted verification plan has backfired, leaving him losing out on the painting altogether.

He said: "They say they want to counter forgery but I think this will have the opposite effect of deterring honest people like myself from coming forward."

A petition set up by McMillan-Scott on the 38 Degrees website had attracted just seven signature by mid-afternoon on Monday.