Inside the Battle Over a $7 Renoir

'Renoir Girl' looks to be far more than a lucky thrift shopper

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 5, 2013 2:45 PM CDT | Updated Apr 5, 2013 5:00 PM CDT

(Newser) – The anonymous Virginia woman who scored a Renoir painting for $7 at a flea market last year has outed herself in an attempt to reclaim ownership of the piece, after it was discovered to have been stolen from a Baltimore museum in 1951 and was thus seized by the FBI. But the revelations are far bigger than just her name. The buyer formerly known as "Renoir Girl" is Marcia Fuqua, the owner of a driving school in the tiny town of Lovettsville, Virginia, reports the Washington Post. In a letter to the FBI, she pleaded her case, insisting she was an "innocent" buyer with "a layperson’s understanding of art,” who could not have possibly known the piece was stolen—or even that it was a Renoir.

But Fuqua's mother is an artist who specialized in reproducing works by famous artists, and a former employee of her studio says Fuqua attended her mother's lessons on art history. A man claiming to be Fuqua's brother first told the Post the Renoir really belonged to their mother and had actually been in the family for decades. "All I know is my sister didn’t just go buy it at a flea market. ... My sister kind of snagged it out of my mom’s art studio," he said, adding that his mother and sister "are keeping me out of the loop." But he later changed his story and said Fuqua is telling the truth, and still later accused someone else of speaking under his name. Fuqua had planned to auction the painting off.

The mysterious $7 Renoir, “On the Shore of the Seine.”
The mysterious $7 Renoir, “On the Shore of the Seine.”   (AP Photo/Potomack Company)
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