Dubai: Christie’s said Thursday it was pulling a painting by Iraqi artist Faeq Hassan from an auction later this week in Dubai because of a “dispute over ownership”.

“As per Christie’s protocol we would not offer works of art when there might be a dispute over title of ownership,” Alexandra Kindermann, senior communications director at the auction house, said.

“As a result the work Untitled (Salah Al-Din, presumably Battle of Hattin) by Faeq Hassan, painted in 1968, has been withdrawn from the upcoming auction on 18 March in Dubai,” she said in a statement.

The decision comes after Iraqi authorities said that the painting belongs to the Iraqi state and had been smuggled out of the country.

“We believe that the painting is owned by the Iraqi state and has been smuggled out,” of the country “and according to experts and artists it was on display at the officers’ club of the defence ministry,” Iraqi member of parliament Maysoon Al Damluji told AFP.

Damluji, who heads parliament’s commission of culture and information, said that the auction house has requested proof of ownership.

“We have witnesses who say they painting was on display at the officers’ club... it is part of Iraqi heritage,” she added.

The oil on canvas was listed by Christie’s as one of the highlights of an auction of modern and contemporary Middle Eastern art due to take place on Saturday in Dubai.

Christie’s estimates the painting to be worth between $400,000 and $500,000 (Dh1.47 million and 1.84 million), according to its website.