Renoir Bought for $7 at Flea Market Stolen in ’50s
A one-of-a-kind Renoir painting the size of a napkin is at the center of an intense legal battle between the Baltimore Museum of Art claiming it was stolen, and a Virginia woman who claims she bought it for $7.
In court papers filed this week, claims the painting was stolen in 1951. As evidence, the Museum provided a 60-year-old police report, old museum catalogues and a receipt showing that a patron bequeathed the painting to the museum.
In her own court filings, filed last month, Martha Fuqua contests the museum’s claim, saying she purchased the painting at a flea market in 2009 for just $7. A legal dispute began in September 2013 when the painting was expected to command at least $75,000 in a scheduled auction at the Alexandria, Va.-based Potomack Company auction house.
Prior to the auction, a reporter for The Washington Post uncovered documents from the Baltimore Museum of Art showing that the painting was stolen from the museum in 1951. The auction was canceled as a result and the FBI seized the art and opened an investigation into the theft.
The documents discovered by the Washington Post reporter indicated that the painting belonged to Saidie May, a well-known art collector and major benefactor to the BMA. The artwork was reported stolen in 1951, according to the documents, shortly after May’s death in May of that year.
Renoir was a leading painter of the Impressionist period and over his career he created thousands of paintings, a few of which have fetched tens of millions of dollars at auction in recent years. The tiny work of art is an 1879 landscape by the Impressionist painter titled “Paysage Bords de Seine.”