ALEXANDRIA Va. (WUSA) - A 61 year-old mystery deepens tonight. Turns out that a painting by impressionist Pierre Auguste Renoir that was to go to auction this weekend at an Alexandria art gallery was stolen. So tonight, the painting is locked in a safe.
This is the kind of find we all dream about. A Virginia woman goes to a West Virginia flea market and buys a box of stuff. She was interested in the Paul Bunyan doll and a plastic cow inside. She ended up with a Renoir.
This small painting has a colorful history. Painted in 1879, 'Landscape on the River Seine' is an authentic Renoir.
"She paid seven dollars for it and the painting, we have estimated, to sell at auction at $75-100,000,," said Elizabeth Wainstein of the Potomack Company, an Alexandria gallery..
Its new owner got the shock of her life.
She was absolutely flabbergasted," said Wainstein. "We had to let her sit down and go get her a Coke. "
Initially, a gift from Renoir to one of his favorite models. She sold it to a Paris gallery, who in turn sold it to an American businessman, whose wife loaned it to the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1931.
"We were all quite excited. It's not every day that a Renoir walks in the door," Wainstein said.
Excitement turned to disappointment when just this week, it was learned, that Renoir was stolen property-lifted from the walls of the Baltimore Museum.
Maryland resident Stephen Verges thought he knew excitement as an actor in Italy, but the frenzy over the Renoir has made him take a second look at a painting he picked up in South America.
"I think it's probably Eduard Muench and I picked it up in Lima, the antique section of Lima," said Verges, an art collector.
As for that small Renoir with the big price tag, it's not clear who stole it and where it's been until it surfaced this summer.)
Tonight, the FBI is investigating. The Baltimore Museum of Art wants the Renoir back. And no word on whether the woman who paid seven dollars for it will get anything out of the deal.