The valuable Renoir painting found at a West Virginia flea market two years ago was apparently stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1951. Museum director Doreen Bolger tells the Washington Post that an FBI investigation is underway.
The painting, discovered by an unnamed Virginia woman who purchased it for $7, was due to be auctioned off at the Potomack Co. auction house in Alexandria this weekend.
After news broke about the painting’s discovery, the Washington Post poked around the Baltimore Museum of Art’s library and found that the museum had been in possession of the work, called “Paysage Bords de Seine,” from 1937 till at least 1949. On loan from a Baltimore native, the piece was stolen in November 1951, but the museum’s current staff didn’t realize that until this week, reports the Post:
Once the Post showed the museum documents confirming that the painting was part of the [Saidie A.] May collection, the museum used the painting’s loan registration number to look in its collection and loan records for more clues about the Renoir’s whereabouts. What the museum found astonished its staff: documents showing that the museum had noted the painting’s theft, and that the BMA had been paid $2,500 by its insurance company for the stolen artwork.
The auction was supposed to take place this Saturday. It has been canceled.