When a West Virginia woman found a lovely old painting at a flea market, she bought it for just $7, thinking she could re-use the frame. As she was taking the picture apart, however, her mother advised her to have it checked out by an appraiser, because the frame held a small plaque which read, "Renoir".
After a careful examination, The Potomack Co. discovered it was, indeed, a real Renoir, and it was expected to go for anywhere between $75,000 to $100,000 at auction. However, a Washington Post reporter recently did some digging and found out that the Baltimore Museum of Art had reported it stolen in 1951, after displaying it on loan from a private collection.
Because there was no police report filed, and no other record indicating that the work had been taken, the FBI is investigating and has asked that the painting be removed from the auction for the time being. It is not known what will become of the painting, but it could be that the woman who thought she'd gotten an extraordinary deal will be very disappointed if the investigation concludes the work was the victim of a crime.
"At this point we just want to make sure that the painting winds up where it belongs and that we provide all the information we can to law enforcement about this issue," museum director Doreen Bolger said.