Fate of Mysterious “Flea Market Renoir” to be Decided Today

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Pending an appeal, we look forward to celebrating the painting’s homecoming with a special installation in the galleries in late March.

The saga of the flea market Renoir — the small painting that a Baltimore woman allegedly bought for $7 before discovering that it was actually by the Impressionist master — will close another chapter soon, as a judge hears arguments from the two sides that claim ownership of the napkin-sized work.

At first, the flea market find seemed like a story right out of Hollywood. Then, the story started to get murkier. The painting was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1951. Then, after some digging, Washington Post reporters uncovered some shady facts about so-called “Renoir Girl” Martha Fuqua. For one, she was well-versed in art; her mother was actually a MICA grad who had once made a living reproducing works by famous painters, including Renoir. And it seems that Fuqua had previously tried to offload the painting at a different auction house, telling staff there that she’d found it at an estate sale.

But all that aside, the BMA says that it’s the rightful owner of the painting, no matter how shadily (or not) Fuqua acquired it; Fuqua believes that she is the painting’s rightful owner. Both sides lawyers will present their arguments today; soon enough, the painting’s rightful owner will be determined. Whatever the outcome is, it’s probably better than having the Renoir sit int he FBI office, where it’s currently being stored as the court case works itself out.

UPDATE:  At 12:15 today we received from the Baltimore Museum on Art the flowing statement regarding the stolen Renoir:

The Baltimore Museum of Art is pleased that the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia has awarded ownership of the stolen Renoir painting, On the Shore of the Seine, to the Museum.

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