The Herald of Everett, Washington
HeraldNet on Facebook HeraldNet on Twitter HeraldNet RSS feeds HeraldNet Pinterest HeraldNet Google Plus HeraldNet Youtube
HeraldNet Newsletters  Newsletters: Sign up | Manage  Green editions icon Green editions
John McCartney and Herald staff | jmccartney@heraldnet.com
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012, 4:47 p.m.

$75,000 Renoir painting found at flea market

  • An apparently original painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir that was acquired by a woman from Virginia who stopped at a flea market ...

    AP

    An apparently original painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir that was acquired by a woman from Virginia who stopped at a flea market in West Virginia and paid $7 for a box of trinkets that included the painting.

WASHINGTON — A woman who paid $7 for a box of trinkets at a West Virginia flea market two years ago apparently acquired an original painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir without knowing it.

The woman considered discarding the painting to salvage its frame, but instead made an appointment to have it evaluated in July by the Potomack Co. auction house in Alexandria, Va., said its fine arts director Anne Norton Craner.

When the woman pulled the painting out of a garbage bag she carried it in, Craner was nearly certain the painting was a Renoir with its distinct colors, light and brushwork. A plaque on the front labeled it "Renoir."

"My gut said that it was right, but you have to then check," Craner said.

French handwriting on the back of the canvass included a label and number. Craner turned to the catalog by French gallery Bernheim-Jeune that's published all of Renoir's work.

"Lo and behold, it was in volume one," she said.

An image of the painting was published in black and white, and the gallery's stock number matched the flea market find. So Craner made a digital image of the flea market painting, converted it to black and white for a closer look, and the brush strokes also matched, she said.

"It's not a painting you would fake," Craner said. "If you're going to fake something, you'd fake something easier."

Painting No. 24349 turns out to be Renoir's painting "Paysage Bords de Seine," which translates to Banks of the River Seine, Craner determined. It dates to about 1879 and measures 6 inches by 10 inches.

The painting is set for auction Sept. 29. It could fetch $75,000 or more, Craner said.

Elizabeth Wainstein, owner of the Potomack Co., said there's no doubt about the painting's authenticity.

The Shenandoah Valley woman who found the painting and kept it in storage for nearly two years has declined to publicly disclose her name.

After weeks of research, Craner believes Renoir gave the painting to a woman who modeled for him. The painting was then sold to the Bernheim-Jeune art gallery for 5,000 francs in 1925, according to gallery records. The following year, the gallery sold the painting to American lawyer Herbert L. May who kept homes in New York and Geneva and also worked for the government in Washington.

As far as Craner can tell, May kept the painting in his personal collection until his death in 1966. It's a mystery, though, as to how the painting ended up in West Virginia. Still, its provenance is fairly short as the painting has not traded hands many times.

"It just did what paintings do sometimes — they kind of disappear out of circulation," Craner said. "That's what is so fantastic. This painting's been unseen since 1926."

Potomack Co.: http://www.potomackcompany.com
Story tags » PaintingCuriosities

Sign up for HeraldNet headlines Newsletter
See sample | Privacy policy

Most recent Off the Wire posts

Share your comments: Log in using your HeraldNet account or your Facebook, Twitter or Disqus profile. Comments that violate the rules are subject to removal. Please see our terms of use. Please note that you must verify your email address for your comments to appear.

You are logged in using your HeraldNet ID. Click here to update your profile. | Log out.

Our new comment system is not supported in IE 7. Please upgrade your browser here.

comments powered by Disqus
digital subscription promo

Subscribe now

Unlimited digital access starting at 99 cents, or included with any print subscription.

loading...
» More local news


HeraldNet highlights

Looking for a friend?
Looking for a friend?: Animals up for adoption at the Everett shelter (7 new photos)
A haircut for a dollar?
A haircut for a dollar?: At Everett barber school, it'll only cost you a hair
What's your number?
What's your number?: Find out what your Seahawks jersey says about you
Cooking for kickoff
Cooking for kickoff: Football-themed recipes for your Super Bowl crowd
SnoCoSocial