Weird 19th-century painting, allegedly by Manet, removed from auction

The Hands Resist Him has nothing on this strange painting, said to be by Édouard Manet, of a bone-white youth clutching a staring, mouthless mystery mammal. You had a chance of buying it at Sothebys, too, but it was withdrawn from auction at the last minute. Sadly, it's not because anyone who touches it has a sudden memory of touching it, a memory of sudden heat and formless whispers and of the places left empty after unspeakable events. Apparently there's an ownership dispute.

Initially, Sotheby's said in a statement that the "proceedings pending on a very limited number of lots" had been "fully resolved" and all of those lots were to be included in the evening sale on 30 October. However, the 19th-century painting was later withdrawn "at the request of the consignor", according to Sotheby's.

According to a report in the French edition of The Art Newspaper, lot 544, presented as a "favourite" of Bergé, was at the centre of the litigation. The dispute reportedly relates to an agreement between Bergé and his fashion designer partner Yves Saint Laurent and an anonymous party, signed in the early 2000s, that entitled the anonymous claimant to a share of the profits should the painting ever be attributed to Manet.

The full canvas: