Top auctioneer Christie's has withdrawn a cartoon from a sale due to be held next week after a complaint that its inclusion might break race and religious hatred laws.
The auction house sought guidance from Scotland Yard's arts and antiques squad after a complaint by a Jewish amateur antiques dealer. Christie's asked if the cartoon, Dumped in London, would breach race hate laws.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said: "Officers advised that in order to establish whether the cartoon breached the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 it would have to be presented with full supporting information to the Crown Prosecution Service. Christie's has chosen voluntarily to remove the item from sale and the matter has now been closed."
The cartoon, drawn in 1903, was one of the earliest by cartoonist and caricaturist H M Bateman, who was born in 1887. It was included in a catalogue for an auction called "Interiors" together with a number of his other drawings. The signed and dated drawing was given a price range of £600-£800 but Christie's would not say who was selling it because of "client confidentiality".
Bateman was famous for a series of drawings which started with the words "The man who…" and he became one of the highest paid cartoonists in Britain after World War II. He died in 1970.
The drawing depicts a skull-capped, bearded Jewish man with hands that extend into long, bony talon-like fingers.
The man is dressed in a tail-coat, through the rear vent of which pokes a tail dangling down covered with orange spots.
The complainant, an amateur art collector who did not want to be named, said: "I was thumbing through the catalogue when I came across this drawing.
"It looked like it had come out of the pages of Der Stürmer (the virulently antisemitic Nazi publication). I found it utterly nauseating that Christie's would include this seriously as a lot for sale or than anyone would want to pay money for it. "
A spokeswoman for Christie's said: "After discussion with the vendor, the item was withdrawn from sale."