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Update: Federal Judge Rules on Rightful Owner of Flea Market Masterpiece

Does a small Renoir painting belong to the woman who bought it at a flea market for $7 or the Baltimore Museum of Art, which reported the piece stolen years ago?

Impressionist master Renior painted “Paysage Bords de Seine,” which is now the subject of a court battle between a Virginia woman who found the work at a flea market and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Credit: Screen capture of WRC footage.
Impressionist master Renior painted “Paysage Bords de Seine,” which is now the subject of a court battle between a Virginia woman who found the work at a flea market and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Credit: Screen capture of WRC footage.

A federal judge has ruled that a small painting by French impressionist Pierre-Auguste Renoir should be returned to a Baltimore museum from which it was stolen years ago, reports WJLA TV.

Judge Leonie Brinkema on Friday rejected a claim of ownership from Marcia “Martha” Fuqua, the Virginia woman who says she bought it at a flea market for $7. Brinkema says there's overwhelming evidence that the painting was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1951.

Fuqua had planned to sell the painting at auction, but the sale was canceled after the claimed the painting was stolen more than 60 years ago, says WJZ TV. The FBI seized the painting in 2012 and held it while the court sorted through competing claims.

The miniature landscape was part of a box of odds and ends in a rural flea market that was purchased by Fuqua in 2009 without knowing the value of the unsigned artwork, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The Virginia auction house Potomack Company believes the landscape to be Renoir’s “Paysage Bords de Seine,” which it values between $75,000 and $100,000, says the Huffington Post.

In November it looked like a settlement might be possible in the case.

Attorneys for Fuqua, 51, of Lovettsville, Va., had submitted a proposed settlement to the museum, the Sun said. A federal judge said litigation costs could quickly surpass a settlement sum.

But this week a federal judge announced arguments would be heard to determine who is the painting's rightful owner, says the Associated Press.

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