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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Baltimore Museum Fights for Flea Market Renoir in Court

Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s ‘Paysage bords de Seine (On the Shore of the Seine),’ 1879. Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s ‘Paysage bords de Seine (On the Shore of the Seine),’ 1879.

The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) filed papers in federal court this week arguing that a painting by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), which was found in a Virginia flea market in 2012, legally belonged to the institution. On the Shore of the Seine (1879) a small landscape painting, had been stolen while it was on view as part of an exhibit at the museum in 1951. A Virginia woman later purchased the work from the flea market for $7, allegedly unaware of the work’s distinguished provenance.

The documents filed on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, VA, claim that no one except the BMA can legally own the Renoir because it belonged to the institution before it was stolen. The buyer of On the Shore of the Seine, Martha Fuqua, has filed her own court papers stating that she deserves to hold on to the painting because she was unaware that the Renoir had been stolen and was subject to FBI forfeiture when she acquired it. Suspicions have surrounded Fuqua’s claim, as her mother is a painter who specializes in reproducing artworks and three friends of Fuqua have come forward saying that they remembered seeing the painting in her home and studio.

After the museum reported On the Shore of the Seine stolen, Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. paid the institution a $2,500 claim. The company has assured the BMA that it will return the painting to the museum if a judge determines that they are the rightful owners.

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