msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/1/2010 4:08:34 AM ET 2010-09-01T08:08:34

Call it the lost art of drinking responsibly: A man entrusted with helping to sell a $1.3 million painting said it disappeared while he was in a drunken haze, according to a lawsuit filed by a co-owner of the canvas.

James Carl Haggerty took the painting — noted French artist Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot's circa 1857 "Portrait of a Girl" — to a Manhattan hotel on July 28 for a potential buyer to examine, Kristyn Trudgeon's lawsuit said.

Then Haggerty hung out at the hotel bar and was seen on security cameras leaving the building with the painting after midnight, according to the lawsuit.

But there was no sign of the portrait on the cameras at his Manhattan apartment building when he got home nearly two hours later, the lawsuit said.

And the next morning, Haggerty told painting co-owner Thomas A. Doyle III he "could not recall its whereabouts, citing that he had had too much to drink the previous evening," according to the lawsuit filed Monday in a Manhattan state court.

Trudgeon is seeking what she says is the roughly $1.3 million value of the painting, which spent years in the collection of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, according to museum spokeswoman Sarah Stifler.

Steady gaze
News service Bloomberg reported that Haggerty would have made $25,000 if the painting, which shows a young woman with a steady gaze, wide forehead and white lace collar, was sold.

A London dealer, Offer Waterman, had been interested in buying the picture, Bloomberg cited the complaint as saying.

Haggerty didn't immediately return phone messages left Tuesday at two possible home numbers for him and at his office at a company that leases out private jets.

Proto-Impressionist
Doyle isn't involved in the lawsuit and didn't return a message left for him at his office at the same jet company. He is a friend of Haggerty's and involved him in the effort to sell the painting, according to Trudgeon's lawyer, Max Di Fabio.

Corot, who lived from 1796 to 1875, was an important figure among the proto-Impressionist group known as the Barbizon School. Members turned their backs on Parisian urbanity to embrace a back-to-the-land emphasis on painting scenes of rural French life, often doing their artwork outdoors.

Trudgeon, who also was acquainted with Haggerty, owns a small portion of the painting, Di Fabio said. He said he had no information on whether it was insured.

Trudgeon "was terribly hurt and dismayed and disappointed," Di Fabio said. "She just would like some answers."

"Portrait of a Girl" left the Hammer Museum's collection in 2007, when the museum and a related foundation parted ways, Stifler said.

The museum was established by oil baron Armand Hammer and is now affiliated with the University of California-Los Angeles.

The museum agreed to return "Portrait of a Girl" and dozens of other paintings to a Hammer-related foundation, and the foundation was allowed to sell the Corot canvas and a few others, Stifler said.

A message left Tuesday at a telephone number listed on the foundation's tax returns was not immediately returned.

Di Fabio said he wasn't sure when Trudgeon and Doyle acquired the painting.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Man loses $1.3M artwork while drunk

  1. Closed captioning of: Man loses $1.3M artwork while drunk

    >>> there are some things that are considered news in the world, but there a few stories around this time of the morning that make us say --

    >> no way!

    >> a new york man is entrusted with a $1.3 million painting. he loses it. allegedly, yes, what, he loses it allegedly because he was drunk. yeah. according to a lawsuit james carl hagerty left a manhattan hotel in july with a portrait of a girl. well, he had been meeting with a potential buyer, he says. one of the painting's owner is suing him. he couldn't remember what happened to the painting buecause he was drinkingen.

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