Renoir painting allegedly sold at flea market returning to museum

Shown is "Paysage Bords de Seine," an 1879 painting by French Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
Shown is “Paysage Bords de Seine,” an 1879 painting by French Impressionist artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir.
(Potomack Company / Associated Press)

A small Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting that a woman said she purchased for just $7 at a flea market will return to a Maryland museum that argued that the painting was stolen from its premises in 1951.

A federal judge in Virginia ruled on Friday that Renoir’s “Paysage Bords de Seine,” which was painted in 1879, is the rightful property of the Baltimore Museum of Art. The decision brought to an ostensible end a bizarre case that pitted a driving teacher against the museum in a battle over an Impressionist work estimated to be worth $22,000.

Martha Fuqua, who reportedly teaches driving in Virginia, had said that she acquired the painting from a flea market in West Virginia in 2009. She later attempted to sell the work at an auction, which came to the attention of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

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“Paysage Bords de Seine” depicts a lush landscape on the shores of the Seine river in France. The small-scale painting is less than one square foot in size.

The Baltimore Museum of Art has said that the painting was stolen in 1951 while on exhibition. The Washington Post reported that it found evidence in the museum’s own records that the painting was given to the museum in 1937 by the family of the noted arts benefactor Saidie May.

U.S. District Court judge Leonie Brinkema ordered on Friday that the painting be returned to the museum. The Post reported that the museum argued that no one can have legal title over a stolen work of art.

Fuqua’s claim that she had purchased the painting at a flea market for $7 was greeted by skepticism by some. The Post reported that some acquaintances of Fuqua had remembered seeing the work at the home of her mother years before the flea market sale took place.


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