Investigators Seek Rightful Owner of Renoir Found at Flea Market

  • Potomack Company will offer Renoir's “Paysage Bords de Seine” on Sept.  29.

    Potomack Company canceled the sale of Renoir's “Paysage Bords de Seine” on Sept. 29

    The Potomack Company Auctions & Appraisals

Baltimore police uncovered a 60-year-old report of a stolen Renoir that matches the recently discovered painting found for $7 at a flea market.

Renoir's 5½-by-9-inch piece, “On the Shore of the Seine,” was loaned to the Baltimore Museum of Art by art patron Saidie A. May, who donated many other works to the museum. On Nov. 17, 1951, the museum reported the painting missing.

A Virginia woman says she found a painting in a box of junk at a West Virginia flea market in 2012 that she kept in storage for two years. When she brought it in for appraisal at Virginia-based Potomack Co., she was told that it could be a Renoir.

When the auction house reasearched the work, the painting did not appear on art loss registers and no evidence of a link to the Baltimore Museum appeared.

It was expected to sell for $75,000 at auction over the weekend, but Potomack postponed the sale pending the police investigation.

Reports of the theft will now help determine who the rightful owner is: the museum, the heirs of May, the woman who found the missing painting 60 years later, or the insurance company that paid the museum $2,500 in 1951 for the loss.

Investigators will look into the identity of the flea market seller who had the Renoir in a box.

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Gustav Klimt, "The Arts, Paradise Choir, and The Embrace (detail of Beethoven Frieze)," 1902.  Casein paint, chalk, graphite, applied plaster, and various appliqué materials, 84.7 x 189.4 in.  (215 x 481 cm).  Oesterreichische Galerie im Belvedere, Vienna, Austria © Belvedere, Vienna

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