One of the hazards of asking a question is getting an answer you don't want.

Just ask Martin Lang.

Mr. Lang, 63, is a Yorkshire, England businessman who, in 1992, paid about $125,000 for a painting of a reclining nude attributed to Chagall. It seemed a wise investment at the time, and indeed a Chagall painting recently sold for $10 million.

But then Mr. Lang offered a BBC television program called "Fake or Fortune" the opportunity to examine his work.

The decision?


According to The Guardian, some of the pigments were too modern.

That isn't the end of Mr. Lang's sad story. In volunteering his painting for scrutiny, he opened the door to having it confiscated by Mark Chagall's heirs. And they did.

Even sadder for Mr. Lang, the heirs want it destroyed. The heirs' mission is to defend Chagall's legacy, and an old French law allows the destruction of fakes in front of a magistrate. It seems the Russian-born artist's work has been widely copied and passed off as original.

It isn't just the money, although it is estimated the painting, if verified as a Chagall, would be worth five times what Mr. Lang paid for it.

The owner - soon to be former owner? - and his family have grown fond of the forgery. It might not be worth much money, but neither is Granny's portrait, and who would burn that? Mr. Lang is seeking a reprieve from the Chagall committee.

The moral of this story:

Be very careful before spending $125,000 for a painting.

And don't ask questions you might not want answered: Isn't it fun to have big cruise ships call Charleston home? Who cares about those old trees along I-26? Do I look fat in this skirt?

Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, "We have our Arts so we won't die of Truth."

In this case, it's the art that would be rubbed out.