The flea market box lot was less than $50, and the buyer picked it up mostly for the Paul Bunyan doll it contained. But it turns out the box lot also contained an original painting by Renoir that could fetch up to $100,000 in an auction at the end of the month, reports the New York Times. The 5.5-inch-by-9-inch painting of the Seine riverside is believed to be Renoir's Paysage Bords de Seine. It was bought from a French gallery in 1925 and later sold to a Maryland collector, but art historians aren't sure when or how it disappeared.
Flea markets are notorious for producing forgeries, but art experts think this is the real thing. "You just see it and you know it’s right," says one at the Potomack auction house in Virginia. The buyer brought the painting there in a white plastic bag. "She liked the look of the frame, and started tearing off the paper on the back, and her mum told her to stop," says the Potomack expert. (Read more Pierre-Auguste Renoir stories.)