Hungarian art historian Gergely Barki was watching Stuart Little with his young daughter five Christmases ago when he noticed a painting above the mantelpiece in the film—and did a double-take. It looked just like "Sleeping Lady with Black Vase," a painting by Hungarian artist Robert Bereny that had last been seen in public in 1928. "It was not just on screen for one second but in several scenes of the film, so I knew I was not dreaming. It was a very happy moment," he says. After emailing everyone involved in the film, Barki finally heard back from a set designer two years later; she had bought the painting for $500 at an antiques shop in Pasadena, Calif., and liked it so much she bought it from the studio and hung it in her own home, reports Vanity Fair.
Barki visited the film assistant, who was "very surprised" by the story and has since sold it to an art collector, who plans to auction it in Budapest on Dec. 13 starting at $110,000. And while Barki hasn't profited from his discovery, he acknowledges that the story could help sales of the Bereny biography he is writing, reports the New York Post. He says that Bereny, who in the early 1900s was part of a group of Hungarian avant-garde painters known as The Eight, was perhaps more famous for his love affairs, including with actress Marlene Dietrich and Russian tsar Nicholas II's daughter, Anastasia. (In 2011, a long-lost da Vinci painting was the first by the artist to resurface in a century.)