Wednesday, September 19, 2012
It's one of those stories that we wish it would happen to us. During a weekend day at the Harpers Ferry Flea Market in Virginia, a Shenandoah Valley woman acquired a box of miscellaneous items - a plastic cow and a Paul Bunyan doll had caught her eye. After taking those two items, the remaining content was put inside a white plastic bag and stored in a shed. Later was moved into her car’s trunk and eventually into her kitchen.
However, part of the content of the box, was also a painting of a landscape. But the woman wasn't really interested in the painting, but in the frame. She had already tored the brown paper off the back and thrown it in the trash when she asked her mother for help to take the painting from the frame.
Fortunately her mother told her to get the painting looked first before throwing it away. She hardly knew that she was in presence of a genuine Renoir, worth many times more than the price that she had payed for box's content: $50.
A plaque on the frame with the author's name, led the owner to seek advice with a reliable expert, so she scheduled an appointment with The Potomack Company in Alexandria (VA).
The painting's radiant plein air quality – the rapid brush strokes, the vibrant purple and pink colors, the Seine as subject matter and the luminous light, reminded fine arts specialist, Anne Norton Craner, of Renoir’s 1879 Landscape of Wargemont.
After further investigation, Craner was able to identify the painting as "Paysage Bords de Seine" (oil on canvas: 5 1/2 x 9 in), one of Renoir’s many river scenes painted along the Seine River near the towns of Bougival and Chatou.
Anne Craner concluded the painting had been last purchased in 1926 from the Gallerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris, one of the preeminent dealers of Renoir’s work, by international lawyer Herbert L. May, husband of Baltimore arts patron and collector Saidie Adler May. Mrs. May was an important benefactor of the Baltimore Museum of Art, donating over 300 works of art as well as funds to establish the museum’s Renaissance and Modern Art wings.
In the words of Elizabeth Haynie Wainstein, owner of The Potomack Company, the painting’s journey is a rare story of a lost treasure found, now expected to fetch $75,000-100,000 at auction.
The painting will be auctioned as Lot 1 on September 29th, included in the Sale 40 - September 29th/30th Auction at Main Gallery.