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Federal Judge Awards Renoir Painting to Baltimore Museum

Disputed painting came to Alexandria auction house in 2012.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

A federal judge in Alexandria awarded ownership of a Renoir painting to the Baltimore Museum of Art, citing “overwhelming evidence” it had been stolen from the gallery in 1951, according to the Associated Press.

The FBI seized the painting from Martha Fuqua of Lovettsville in 2012 after she brought it to Potomack Company auction house in Alexandria.

Fuqua, a driving instructor in Loudoun County, claimed she purchased the painting for $7 at a West Virginia flea market and an art specialist confirmed it was Renoir’s “Paysage Bords de Seine.”

Representatives of Potomack Company told Patch in 2012 the painting appeared auctionable after checking the FBI’s art theft website and another service that tracks missing and stolen works of art. 

However, after reading about the painting’s discovery in The Washington Post, museum officials in Baltimore came to believe it had been stolen from their collection more than 60 years prior.

Potomack withdrew the painting from sale and asked federal authorities to determine ownership.

“Potomack is relieved this came to light in a timely manner as we do not want to sell any item without clear title,” Potomack owner Elizabeth Wainstein told Patch in 2012.

The auction company had expected to fetch at least $75,000 for the painting in 2012, according to the AP.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema granted summary judgment in favor of the museum Friday, canceling a trial that was scheduled for next week.

"All of the evidence is on the Baltimore museum's side,” the judge said, according to the AP. 

Many of Fuqua’s acquaintances questioned her flea market claim, saying they remembered seeing the Renoir at the home of Fuqua’s mother decades prior, according to a Washington Post report. Her mother, who passed away in September, attended art college in Baltimore at the time of the painting’s theft. 

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