BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Curators at the Baltimore Museum of Art are celebrating after a court decides a painting stolen there more than 60 years ago must be returned to the museum.
Derek Valcourt has more on the end to what has been a long legal battle over the painting.
It was a bitter battle with a woman who says she bought the painting at a flea market. In the end, the museum was able to convince a judge they were the rightful owners.
The very small painting of the French river Seine is now heading back to the BMA. Renoir painted it in 1879.
His painting came to Baltimore when collector Sadie Mae purchased it in the 1920s. She later loaned it to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where it was stolen in 1951.
It went missing until 2012, when Marcia Fuqua claims she bought it at a West Virginia flea market.
“I notice the frame on this picture, and I like the frame. I bid seven dollars and I won the box,” Fuqua said.
Since then, the FBI has held onto the painting while Fuqua’s attorneys battled with the BMA, asking the courts to determine the painting’s rightful owner.
Friday morning, a Virginia judge ruled in favor of the BMA.
The court’s decision will allow the BMA to put the Renoir painting back on display in a prominent spot in one of the galleries where many of the other works of art that Sadie Mae donated to the museum now hang.
“We’re just totally thrilled that it will return,” said Doreen Bolger, BMA director.
Bolger is already planning a special homecoming exhibition for the painting at the end of March, detailing the piece’s significance and history.
“Here we love all of our works of art. We have 90,000 fabulous works in the BMA collection. But the loss of this one was so painful for us,” Bolger said. “Imagine welcoming back to your own family a relative lost for 60 years.”
Once it’s back on the BMA walls, it will round out the ranks of more than 40 other Renoir paintings and sculptures in their collection.
This year, the BMA celebrates its 100th birthday. Museum directors say the return of this valuable painting is the ultimate birthday gift. Had the painting been sold at auction, art experts say it could have fetched up to $100,000.
Marsha Fuqua and her attorneys have up to 30 days to appeal the court’s decision.
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