Fresh Paint – “Flea Market Renoir May Have Been Stolen”

In today’s society it is so easy to snag deals on movies, clothes, food, or just about anything in general. Applications such as Groupon give us daily deals to by various items at discounted prices and places like thrift stores give us access to cheap, stylish clothing. These forms of discounts aren’t only beneficial to the consumers, but the producers as well in that they can attract more customers or get rid of items they might not want. But how would you feel if your possession was wrongfully sold at a ridiculously low price or worse, stolen?

In recent news, a flea market shopper found out that the painting he/she bought for $7 is actually worth more than $75,000. The painting is in fact a work called “Paysage Bords de Seine,” which translates to “Landscape of the Banks of the Seine,” by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and was scheduled to be sold this Saturday at the Potomack Company, an auction house, located in Alexandria, Va. However, the sale of the painting was put on hold after a reporter discovered that it was stolen in 1951, over six decades ago.

So how did this painting end up in the auction house in the first place? According to, a Virginia woman purchased the painting two years ago at a flea market in West Virginia. She had only bought the painting for its frame and tried to rip it apart, but her mother encouraged her to get it appraised. When she brought the painting to the Potomack Company in July, the experts confirmed that it was a painting by Renoir.

The painting was originally on loan to the Baltimore Museum of Art back in 1937. However, soon after its owner, Sadie A. May, died and bequeathed her art collection to the museum, the painting was reported to be stolen. The Potomack Company reported that they checked Art Loss Register, which is the world’s largest private database of stolen and lost art, before putting the Renoir painting up for sale, but the painting was not listed on the database. What is also strange is that there weren’t any police reports of the theft and the work wasn’t listed in the F.B.I.’s art theft website either. The auction house’s owner, Elizabeth Wainstein, has stated that, “Potomack is relieved this came to light in a timely manner as we do not want to sell any item without clear title.” The director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Doreen Bolger, stated that although the officials have only seen the photographs of the painting, they are assuming that the painting is real and she would be glad to show the painting again if it were to be returned to the museum. The auction at the Potomack Company will continue to go on as scheduled with the withdrawal of the Renoir.

What happened to the painting after it was stolen in November 1951 still remains a mystery and what would happen, now that it has been found, still remains unclear. Do you think the painting should go back to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where the art piece was first stolen? Or should it be given to the auction house since there weren’t any police reports filed and the painting wasn’t properly listed on the database?

5 thoughts on “Fresh Paint – “Flea Market Renoir May Have Been Stolen”

  1. I think further investigation should be done as to how this painting made its way to a flea market. The seller could probably offer some information about where he/she got the painting in the first place.

    Furthermore, how did the reporter know that the piece was stolen? I believe the credibility of the FBI and “the world’s largest private database of stolen art” is far greater than that of a reporter. This also needs to be considered. It is very strange that such a renowned and highly priced piece of art made its way into a flea market.

    As for painting now, I believe it should be returned to the museum from which it was reportedly stolen.

  2. I think more attention needs to be drawn to the seller at the flea market and how he or she was able to obtain the painting in the first place. I think that this whole situation is a bit sketchy in the sense that the FBI has no record of the painting and the painting’s whole ownership history is unknown. As for now, I think that the painting should remain in custody of the auction house since it is not known how or who removed it from the museum it was originally in. For all we know, it may have been a mistake on the museum’s part that caused it to lose such a valuable painting.

  3. I think it’s very suspicious that there was no police report or any other indicator that the painting was stolen. I find it odd that the museum didn’t even try to get the painting back and I wonder why they didn’t. I think the auction house should keep the painting since the museum didn’t seem to want it back when it first went missing.

  4. I do wonder why the painting was not listed under the Art Loss Register. The painting should remain in the auction house for now, but eventually it might be sold off. The shopper got really lucky with the painting, and if she gets nothing after the truth is revealed, it seems unfair. But then it is also wrong for it to be stolen back then. Ethics involves everything, including art. Maybe the value will go up now that it is a formerly stolen painting.

  5. It is interesting as to how the painting got in the hands of the flea market seller, and how the painting was not listed under the Art Loss Register and the database. What I find even more interesting was that the buyer bought this expensive painting just for the frame. This shows that the worth of a piece of art is given to it by the purchaser.

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