Auction of $7 Renoir canceled, may be stolen from Baltimore museum

Thu Sep 27, 2012 9:51pm EDT
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By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Virginia auction house on Thursday canceled the sale of a Renoir painting bought at a flea market for $7 after signs the work was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art decades ago.

The painting "Paysage Bords de Seine" by Pierre-Auguste Renoir was to have gone under the hammer on Saturday but ownership questions halted the sale, said Lucie Holland, a spokeswoman for Potomack Co, the Alexandria, Virginia, auctioneer.

"The rest of the auction will go on, but the Renoir has been withdrawn," she said.

A Virginia woman bought the signed French Impressionist painting at a West Virginia flea market a year or two ago, hoping the frame would be of some use.

She ignored the work until it turned up again while housecleaning and had it appraised by Potomack in July. The auctioneers verified it as a Renoir and estimated its worth at $75,000 to $100,000.

The Baltimore Museum of Art told Potomack on Wednesday that its records indicated "Paysage Bords de Seine," or "Landscape on the Banks of the Seine," was stolen while on loan to the museum in 1951, the auction house said.

Potomack told the FBI and a federal probe is under way. There is no known police report on the theft.

BOUGHT IN PARIS   Continued...