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Baltimore Museum of Art Battles in Court for Flea Market Renoir

9 June 2013 - by ArtfixDaily Staff

Arguments were heard in federal court over a disputed Renoir that the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) says was stolen from an exhibit there decades ago and a Virginia woman claims she is rightfully the owner after finding the work at a flea market.

Last Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, the BMA filed documents claiming legal ownership of the Renoir which was stolen from an exhibit there in 1951. The museum demands its return on the grounds that a purchase of the purloined painting, even without knowledge of its theft, does not make it legally owned.

When “On the Shore of the Seine," Renoir's small landscape of 1879, came up for auction in 2012, attention was turned on the woman's story of finding the painting for $7 at a West Virginia flea market. The auction estimate was up to $100,000.

Shortly after, the BMA discovered the painting had been stolen from its premises and the FBI was alerted. 

Martha Fuqua, who talked to reporters about buying the Renoir at a flea market, claims she is an "innocent owner" and had no idea of the painting being stolen.

According to the Washington Post, relatives and friends of Fuqua have said they had seen the painting in her mother's home in the 1980s or 90s. Her mother, Marcia Fouquet, is a trained painter who specialized in reproducing masterpieces, including works by Renoir.

A federal judge will decide the case.