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Court rules civil suit can proceed against Sopranos star Castelluccio

Federico Castelluccio with his Guercino painting of St. Sebastian. Photo by James Sliman
Federico Castelluccio with his 17th-century Guercino painting of St. Sebastian. Photo by James Sliman


NEW YORK – A judge in Kings County Supreme Court, New York, has ruled that a civil lawsuit can move forward against Sopranos actor, artist and art collector Federico Castelluccio. The actor’s former publicist, James Sliman, filed a lawsuit against Castelluccio in August, alleging non-payment of $35,000 for 2 1/2 years of publicity services Sliman says he provided in connection with the actor’s 17th-century Guercino painting of St. Sebastian. On Dec. 16, Judge Edgar G. Walker refused a request made by Castelluccio’s attorney for a dismissal of the case.

When reached for comment, Sliman said that since the filing of the complaint in August, Castelluccio has “made no effort to resolve [the] matter” and that no settlement offer had been made. “Instead, he continues to try and delay the issue as he’s been doing over the last two and a half years,” Sliman said

“[Castelluccio] continues to say he’s flat broke and cannot pay me until he sells the Guercino, even though he maintains a vast, museum-quality art collection,” Sliman said. When asked why he thinks Castelluccio has not sold the painting, Sliman speculated: “I think there are several reasons. I did suggest three or four times that he put the painting into the Old Masters sale at one of the major auction houses, which they hold every January. His response was to balk at paying the high auction-house commission, and he told me a few times he would not trust the auction houses with a sale like this. He said they sometimes make side deals or private-sale deals that are not fully beneficial to the seller. I don’t understand this, because major art collectors from all over the world trust these auction houses with their valuable art, why doesn’t he? My opinion is that he may have a slight problem with auction houses. He never paid a $500 balance from about four years ago at one of the smaller auction houses in town for an antique mirror he purchased, even though he took the mirror home.”

The summons and complaint states that when Sliman’s publicity work on the Guercino project began, he and Castelluccio had an agreement based on the actor’s proven expertise in the area of Baroque Old Masters and his assurances that the painting would be sold within a period of months. Once the painting had sold, Sliman said, he was to be paid the mutually agreed-upon sum of $35,000.

When this didn’t transpire, Sliman says he continued with the PR campaign because he considered Castelluccio his friend and believed him when he said repeatedly that the Guercino would be sold very soon. More than a year later in July 2015, when Castelluccio exhibited the painting at the Princeton University Museum of Art, it still hadn’t sold. Sliman says he was given various reasons for the delays in selling the painting, but that the bottom line is that he still hasn’t received any money for the work he did in publicizing the artwork and promoting Castelluccio as a serious and astute art collector.

The plaintiff’s complaint also states that, on three occasions, Sliman asked Castelluccio to some up with at least some small good-faith payments. Each time, according to Sliman, Castelluccio refused, saying he was “flat broke.”

“Everyone knows what an amazing job I have done for Mr. Castelluccio,” Sliman said. “I’ve been more patient than anyone else would have been, and I only want to be paid for my work as agreed.”

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