Huffpost Arts

Flea Market Renoir Was Stolen, Says Reporter (PHOTO)

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RENOIR
Potomack Company

In 2010 a Shenandoah Valley resident unknowingly bought Pierre-August Renoir's “Paysage Bords de Seine” at a flea market, for the bargain bin price of $7. (The Huffington Post spoke with the dazed buyer nearly a month ago, when she realized her luck.)

At the time, "Renoir Girl, as she asked us to refer to her, was hoping to earn anywhere from $75,000 and $100,000 for the painting, based on an auction house estimate. Her plans for spending the money included a trip to the Louvre Museum with her mother, whose hunch led her to verify the painting's authenticity, she told us.

But now it appears that trip may be delayed: a recent investigation indicates the painting was stolen. A report published Thursday by the Washington Post details the mysterious crime.

The saga began nearly 61 years ago, when "Paysage Bords de Seine" was spirited out of the Baltimore Museum of Art. The Post reporter found documentation of the painting at the BMA from 1937 until its theft on November 17, 1951. Questions of who stole it, where it languished for decades and how it would up at a flea market remain.

Documents also show the museum claimed the theft for $2,500 in insurance money. What this means about who rightfully owns the painting is dependent on Maryland state laws, art expert Alan Bamberger told The Huffington Post.

The auction, which was scheduled to take place later this week, is on hold pending the results of an FBI investigation. The enigmatic work will stay shacked up at the auction house expecting to sell it, the Virginia-based Potomack Company, until the rightful legal owner is identified.

While "Renoir Girl" may have hit a bump in the road in her rags-to-riches tale, this month has had no shortage of bizarrely lucky finds. This week a couple who accidentally bought an abstract painting by Ilya Bolotowsky at Goodwill sold it for $27,000. And a batch of vintage Rolling Stones photographs found in an unmarked envelope at an estate sale are finally ours to ogle.

CLICK through the slideshow below for more unexpected arts finds:

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