About a year ago, a small Renoir painting, Paysage Bord du Seine, appeared in a local auction room, and the story behind how it came to be there was a little fishy: in a box at a flea market, but the owner couldn’t remember where it was or when she’d gotten it, just that she liked the painting. Naturally, the arrival of the painting garnered some press, and one of the reporters at the Washington Post, the local paper, did some digging to see how a painting owned by a wealthy gentleman who spent his time between Paris and New York, ended up in a West Virginia flea market.
To make a long and drawn out story short, here are some facts: The painting was stolen in 1951. At that time, a woman student at a local art school, who specialized in copying the Impressionists, was working at the BMA. The woman who put the painting up for auction was the student’s daughter. The student’s son said the painting had hung in their house for years. The case went to court. The daughter lost.
The Baltimore Museum of Art got their painting back, in a round-about way, from the insurance company, who’d paid the claim, but who was giving the painting back to the Museum. You can get a good idea of just how small the painting is, here in the conservation lab, with Museum Director, Doreen Bolger.
If you want to read all of the twists and turns of this story, click here to see the whole list of the Post stories. And here’s a good story about how the Post’s reporter discovered that the painting had been stolen. It’s all fascinating and more than a little crazy.