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?

Jihae Lee

Hi, my name is Jihae Lee and I’m from Queens. I like to read, listen to music, and watch movies in my spare time. I’m looking forward to learning about art and discovering new interests this semester.