I remember when I thought the story of the flea market Renoir (previously covered here, here, and here) was like something out of a romantic comedy: a lady out browsing flea markets on a Sunday morning buys a box of junk for $7, only to discover that the small painting she purchased is actually by an Impressionist master. But now that more details about the woman and her story are coming out, it’s sounding as though the film version would be less like a romantic comedy, and more like a film noir. Nothing, it appears, is as it seems.
First came the revelation earlier this month that the so-called “Renoir Girl,” Martha Fuqua, wasn’t the artistic naif she presented herself to be. Fuqua’s mother was a MICA grad and art teacher who had made a living reproducing works by famous painters — Renoir included. Now comes the revelation that Fuqua had previously stopped by a different art auction house with the painting, but told a completely different story about how she came to have it. According to the Washington Post, employees at Quinn’s Auction Galleries in Falls Church revealed that Fuqua told them she got it from an estate sale, not a flea market. When Fuqua said that,”A red flag went up,” a Quinn’s employee told the Post. “Typically, an estate would know if it had a high-end painting by such an artist.”
The Quinn’s employee valued the Renoir at between $20,000 and $40,000, which disappointed Fuqua; she’d been hoping for $1 million, apparently. Fuqua, a former blackjack dealer, PE teacher, and driver’s ed instructor who filed for bankruptcy a few years ago, denies all allegations of fishy business.
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