Flea Market Art Buy Turns Up Famous Renoir Painting

By Suzan Clarke

Sep 10, 2012 9:05am

A woman who reportedly paid less than $60 for a box of assorted art items at a flea market may have cashed in big, for one of the pieces in her purchase is a canvas by famous French painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The painting, a river Seine scene titled “Paysage Bords de Seine,” is scheduled to be auctioned at 10 a.m. on Sept. 29 by the Potomack Company, a fine arts  and antiques auction gallery in Alexandria, Va. The painting is expected to sell for between $75,000 and $100,000.

Its owner, who wants to remain anonymous, bought the lot of items at a flea market in the Shenandoah Valley.

“What had actually caught her eye in the box wasn’t the valuable Renoir but a plastic cow and a Paul Bunyan doll.  She stored the rest of the box’s contents first in a white plastic bag in a shed, later in her car’s trunk and eventually in her kitchen,”  Anne Norton Craner, the Potomack Company  fine arts specialist, said in a news release.

The unnamed woman told the auction house that she was “more interested in the frame than the landscape, and started taking it apart.”

She had apparently thrown the painting’s wrapping paper into the trash, but her mother advised her to examine the painting first before discarding it. She noticed that a plaque that said “Renoir” was affixed to the painting, so she took the canvas to the Potomack Company to have it  checked, according to the news release.

When Craner removed the painting from the plastic bag in which it was stored, she said she was struck by the rapid brush strokes and vibrant purple and pink colors, all of which reminded her of another Renoir work, “Landscape of Wargemont.”  Further investigation confirmed the woman’s painting was “Paysage Bords de Seine.”

Records show the painting was last purchased by an international lawyer in Paris in 1926. It’s not known how it made its way to the Virginia flea market.

Renoir was a leading painter of the Impressionist period. Over his career he created thousands of paintings, a few of which have fetched tens of millions of dollars at auction in recent years.

He died in 1919 at the age of 78.

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