Baltimore museum has strong case in Renoir theft

Associated Press
This undated image provided by the Potomack Company shows an apparently original painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir that was acquired by a woman from Virginia who stopped at a flea market in West Virginia and paid $7 for a box of trinkets that included the painting. An auction house has put on hold the sale of a painting believed to be by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir that a woman bought at a West Virginia flea market because a reporter found evidence someone stole the painting from the Baltimore Museum of Art.  A Washington Post reporter discovered documents in the museum’s library showing the painting was there from 1937 until 1949. Museum officials then found paperwork showing the painting, “Paysage Bords de Seine,” was stolen in 1951.   (AP Photo/Potomack Company)
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This undated image provided by the Potomack Company shows an apparently original painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir that was acquired by a woman from Virginia who stopped at a flea market in West Virginia and paid $7 for a box of trinkets that included the painting. An auction house has put on hold the sale of a painting believed to be by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir that a woman bought at a West Virginia flea market because a reporter found evidence someone stole the painting from the Baltimore Museum of Art. A Washington Post reporter discovered documents in the museum’s library showing the painting was there from 1937 until 1949. Museum officials then found paperwork showing the painting, “Paysage Bords de Seine,” was stolen in 1951. (AP Photo/Potomack Company)

WASHINGTON (AP) — An expert on art thefts says the Baltimore Museum of Art likely has a strong case to reclaim a Renoir painting that was stolen in 1951 and turned up recently at a West Virginia flea market.

Former FBI investigator Robert Wittman says the painting's dimensions and composition are key in matching it to a stolen piece.

A woman bought the painting for $7 at the flea market and it was expected to fetch $75,000 at a now-postponed auction.

Museum officials were combing through paper records Friday to learn more about the theft nearly 61 years ago. So far, they have found a record documenting the painting was on loan from art patron Saidie A. May.

It's the only record they've found of the painting being stolen while on exhibition.

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