A woman in Virginia purchased a possible lost painting by French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir at a flea market, in a box lot.
The Potomack Company is set to auction off the small pastel-colored painting of what they believe is Renoir’s “Paysage Bords de Seine” after valuing it between $75,000 and $100,000, reports The New York Times.
The auction price is massive, considering that the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, found the painting at a flea market, purchasing it for less than $50.
Anne Norton Craner, Potomack’s fine arts specialist and a former research associate at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, extensively researched the 5.5 by 9-inch river scene, concluding that it was painted by Renoir. Craner stated that, “You just see it and you know it’s right.”
Craner recalled when the owner brought the painting into Potomac in a large white plastic bag. She recounted that, “She liked the look of the frame, and started tearing off the paper on the back, and her mum told her to stop” because it could be worth money.
The image is included in the catalogue raisonné, or the definitive compilation of an artist’s work. She learned that the painting was owned by Herbert May, the husband of Sadie A. May, who collected many paintings in Marylanded and donated many to the Baltimore Museum of Art.
A sticker and stock number are visible on the back of the painting, but Craner has no clue how the Renoir could have gotten from the Mays’ collection to a box of junk at a flea market.
The Huffington Post notes that Craner instinctively felt the painting was an original when she first viewed it, citing the beautiful colors, as well as the French dealer label providing the artist’s name and title. She also showed the painting to a Renoir expert, who confirmed her conclusion.
The painting’s owner has not even considered keeping the Renoir, but said that, “I’m sure that whoever buys it will treat it the way it deserves to be treated.” She plans to treat her mother with a trip to the Louvre if the auction proves fruitful.