Turns out there’s a bigger story behind the Renoir painting purchased for $7 a couple of years ago at a West Virginia flea market — a mystery, and an alleged theft, in fact.
A reporter from The Washington Post discovered evidence that the painting — “Paysage Bords de Seine,” or “Landscape on the Banks of the Seine” by French Impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir — was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art more than six decades ago.
Documents show that the museum had the painting — on loan by its owner, Baltimore art collector Sadie May — in its possession from 1937 until at least 1949. May died in May 1951, at which time the painting was bequeathed to the museum. It vanished on Nov. 17, 1951.
The Renoir — which sat untouched in a box until its new owner’s mother suggested she have it authenticated — was supposed to go on auction this weekend in Virginia. That event has been postponed, and the FBI is investigating.
So it looks like there won’t be a lucrative ending to this story, as there was for a similar saga in North Carolina. Beth Feedback, an artist who specializes in cat portraits, was planning to paint over an abstract painting she bought at a Goodwill store for $9.99 before her friends urged to make sure it wasn’t valuable. Turns out, it was, and fetched more than $27,000 at auction.