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 small 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 from its owner, Baltimore art collector Saidie May — in its possession from 1937 until at least 1949. When May died in 1951, 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.
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