Renoir bought for $7 at W. Virginia flea market ordered returned to museum

Fri Jan 10, 2014 6:12pm EST
 
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By Lacey Johnson

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) - A napkin-size Renoir painting bought for $7 at a flea market but valued at up to $100,000 must be returned to the museum it was stolen from in 1951, a federal judge ordered on Friday.

The 1879 Impressionist painting "Paysage Bords de Seine," dashed off for his mistress by Pierre-Auguste Renoir at a riverside restaurant, has been at the center of a legal tug-of-war between Marcia "Martha" Fuqua, a former physical education teacher from Lovettsville, Virginia, and the Baltimore Museum of Art in Maryland.

Judge Leonie Brinkema, in a hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, dismissed Fuqua's claim of ownership, noting that a property title cannot be transferred if it resulted from a theft.

"The museum has put forth an extensive amount of documentary evidence that the painting was stolen," Brinkema said, citing a 1951 police report and museum records.

"All the evidence is on the Baltimore museum's side. You still have no evidence - no evidence - that this wasn't stolen," said Brinkema to Fuqua's attorney before ruling in favor of the museum.

Fuqua bought the unsigned "Paysage Bords de Seine," or "Landscape on the Banks of the Seine," at a Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, flea market in late 2009 because she liked the frame, she said in a court filing. She paid $7 for the painting, along with a box of trinkets.

Although the frame carried the nameplate "Renoir 1841-1919," Fuqua was unaware the 5-1/2-by-9-inch oil painting was genuine and stored it in a garbage bag for 2-1/2 years, she said.

A REAL RENOIR   Continued...

 
Marla Diaz, attorney for the Baltimore Museum of Art, speaks to the media outside of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia January 10, 2014. REUTERS/Gary Cameron