Real Estate & Property Law

Art museum gets Renoir painting that woman said she bought for $7 at flea market, judge rules


A federal judge has ruled against a Virginia woman who claimed she purchased a small painting by a famous French impressionist for $7 at a flea market.

How Marcia “Martha” Fuqua acquired the Pierre-Auguste Renoir painting doesn’t matter, said U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in a Friday decision granting a motion for summary judgment by the Baltimore Museum of Art. Because the tiny landscape was stolen from the museum in 1951, it had to be returned to the original owner, according to the Associated Press and the Baltimore Sun.

Nicholas O’Donnell, a Boston attorney who formerly worked as a museum researcher and has been blogging on the case for Art Law Report, had predicted this result in a Baltimore Sun article published prior to Brinkema’s decision.

Although an attorney for Fuqua argued that the theft happened so long ago that documents supporting the museum’s claim of ownership were inadmissible, “It would shock me if sufficient evidence didn’t get into the trial that the painting was stolen,” O’Donnell told the Sun.

“If there’s any way to get that evidence in, the museum will win. The museum’s attorney points out very well that even a good-faith purchaser can’t get title to stolen goods.”

Fuqua could still appeal the judge’s ruling in the Alexandria, Va., case, the articles note. Expert estimates of the Renoir value range from $22,000 to $75,000. It is painted on a linen table napkin.

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Art Mystery: Who Owns the Tiny Renoir Purchased for $7 at Flea Market?”

ABAJournal.com: “Museum seeks dismissal of woman’s claim to stolen Renoir”

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