On the Shore of the Seine
A decades-old theft report discovered by police in the USA on Friday could be the clue that links a piece of artwork purchased for 7 USD (220 Roubles. 5.50 Euros. 4.40 UK Pounds) to a costly Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting that was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1951. The report, dated 17 November 1951 described Renoir’s On the Shore of the Seine, as a “river scene in pink and blue”. It confirmed that someone stole the painting from the museum, and noted that police found no evidence of forced entry. Police never solved the case.
A Virginia woman purchased a painting that matches the description in a box of junk at a West Virginia flea market two years ago, and had the piece valued by The Potomack Company auction house this summer. Experts there confirmed it was the Renoir masterpiece On the Shore of the Seine, worth up to 100,000 USD (3.125 million Roubles. 78,000 Euros. 62,000 UK Pounds), and found that the frame contained a plaque with the famous painter’s name on it. Where the artwork came from was a mystery, and the owner… who hasn’t publicly revealed her name… made plans to sell it at an auction scheduled for Saturday.
However, an investigation by The Washington Post this week found that the Impressionist painting might have been stolen from the BMA. The Post reporter also discovered evidence that the painting was on loan to the museum from 1937 until 1951, it belonged to an art collector named Saidie May, whose ex-husband bought the painting in 1926 from a Paris gallery. BMA Director Doreen Bolger said in an interview with the Washington Post, “Obviously, we take our responsibility for our collections and the things entrusted to us very seriously. We have to do more research and get to the bottom of the real story, and we’re still in the midst of that process. We have a lot of written and printed records, and they’re filed in many areas of the museum”.
In light of the new information, The Potomack Company cancelled the auction of the Renoir painting scheduled for Saturday, whilst the US Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the case to confirm the painting’s rightful owner. Robert Wittman, a former FBI investigator of art thefts, said, “I just figured it’d be a matter of time before somebody made a claim, because those things just don’t disappear”.
29 September 2012