VIC Sale of Painting - Contract Law Case?

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13 June 2015
I wanted to sell a painting by a colonial painter who specialised in oil paintings on gum tree leaves. I emailed several potential buyers including [Art Gallery], a civic gallery which features paintings by [E], who lived in the area.

The President phoned me and was quite excited about the prospect of acquiring another [E]. I emailed him several photos of the painting including close-ups and also in a later email another photo of the signature. He said that he would call next day with an offer. This happened and he asked me for my price but I replied saying that I wanted him to make an offer, to which he said $1500.00 - I then replied saying that if he paid $1750.00 we would have a deal. He replied by saying that we had a deal at $1750.00.

He also volunteered the information that an adviser had recommended that I be offered $1000.00 but as they really wanted this one they were wiling to pay more.

I then gave him my bank details and he said that he would pay promptly and would come down to collect the painting. I live in [Victorian Town].

This was a very good deal for me as typically [E] paintings go for around $800.00. I only went for such a high amount because he was so excited about acquiring my painting.

Several days passed and no money. Then he rang and said that he wished for the following actions to take place: we were to meet at a valuers address in Melbourne and have it confirmed that the painting was by [E] in which case the money would be handed over. But he then said that I would have to pay $100.00 to this valuer. He seemed agitated and it was not entirely clear at what he was getting at. Reading between the lines I assume that he was under pressure for having paid too much for the painting. It appeared to me that I would be placed in the position of having to accept a reduction in price or even have the deal rendered invalid for some reason or other.

I said why don't I just take the painting to the valuer who would then call the buyer, say that it was OK and the buyer [near the Art Gallery] would then pay the money into my bank account. He said that that was a good idea and hung up.

Yesterday afternoon I thought that perhaps he was personally severely embarrassed by this affair and out of a spirit of good will I emailed him and said that if he immediately paid $1000.00 into my bank account then that was good enough for me. However as of 1.00 pm today there has been no contact from him to me so I advised him by email that I was going to place the matter in the hands of the Small Claims Tribunal.

Do I have a case to claim the $1750.00 under contract law?


Well-Known Member
11 July 2014
To clarify, you agreed on the phone $1750. Do you have anything written in emails? No contract I'm assuming.

Any transaction taking place anyway was conditional on a valuer's inspection.

"I emailed him and said that if he immediately paid $1000.00 into my bank account then that was good enough for me." Whether out of goodwill or otherwise, that email would seem to undermine the idea that there had been intention to create legal relations. One way to look at that email is goodwill to offset his embarrassment, another way is as an attempt to secure a deal and see a transaction take place when things were still up in the air.

Anyway that's my take and for my part I don't like your chances, but let's see what other contributors have to say.


13 June 2015
You are right - there was nothing in writing and no contract. Just the words of gentlemen.

No part of the original negotiations was dependent on a valuers inspection. It was a simple matter, an amount was offered, it was responded to by a higher price from me, this was immediately accepted quite unequivocally. I gave my bank details and that was that.

It is really a matter of assessment as to the degree of compassion I felt for the seller when I offered a far lower price but you are right it can be considered in a negative aspect against my claim.

But as I said there was the original negotiations, simple, clearly understood and final. No valuer's involvement, no further actions required just a matter of sending the money.

If the other party lies then I have no case at all.