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Woman Finds Renoir Masterpiece In Flea Market

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Mary Bubala joined WJZ in December 2003. She now anchors the 4-4:30...
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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — From trash to treasure. It’s the dream of anyone who looks for finds at a flea market.

Mary Bubala reports that dream came true in a big way for a woman as she got her hands on a priceless painting that’s been missing since the 1920s.

This is no ordinary painting. It’s an 1879 Renoir, a masterpiece, discovered by a woman in a West Virginia flea market, of all places! The woman who found the painting wants to remain anonymous but she said by phone she bid for a box of items that just happened to include the work of art.

“I noticed the frame on this picture and I liked the frame. I bid $7 and I won the box,” she said.

“She first puts it in her shed–luckily in a plastic bag–then into her kitchen and the back of her car,” said fine arts specialist Anne Craner.

A year later, the woman was about to take the painting out of the frame when her mother spotted the name Renoir on the edging, a French gallery label and a stock number.

Experts at the Potomack Company Auction House authenticated the piece after the woman brought it by in late August.

“The painting could fetch between $75,000 and $100,000 at auction but the notion a masterpiece like this, a Renoir original, is discovered in a West Virginia flea market has the art world talking,” said Richard Reeve.

The auction house is getting calls from all over the world because this painting was last heard about in 1926.

“It really is a needle in a haystack. Just unbelievable that something is out there, lost for so long and waiting to be found,” said Elizabeth Wainstein, who owns the auction house.

And the anonymous finder? She says she feels pretty lucky.

“I’m living proof you don’t know what you get in a box. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” she said.

The painting will be up for public auction on Sept. 29.

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