Lost Art

A Renoir piece stolen from the BMA in 1951 finally returns home.

By Jess Blumberg Mayhugh - March 2014

A stolen Renoir piece returns to the BMA

A Renoir piece stolen from the BMA in 1951 finally returns home.

By Jess Blumberg Mayhugh - March 2014

-Illustration by Brett Affrunti

If only the canvas of Renoir’s “On the Shore of the Seine” could talk.

The tiny 5 1/2-by-9-inch painting has been on quite a journey since being loaned to The Baltimore Museum of Art by collector Saidie Adler May in 1937.

“It’s small, but packs quite a punch with color and technique,” says Katy Rothkopf, the BMA’s senior curator of European painting and sculpture. Perhaps this is what caused thieves to steal the painting in November 1951, spawning a 60-year journey that landed it in a box of miscellaneous items at a West Virginia flea market and then the Potomack Company auction house in Alexandria, VA, in 2012.

The auction house contacted the BMA and—once they learned the painting was stolen—got the FBI involved. In January, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia awarded ownership of the painting back to the museum.

This month, the BMA celebrates its return. “We’ll include it in a small exhibit on Saidie Adler May in two galleries,” Rothkoph says. “We don’t currently have any Renoir landscapes from this period—where he was his most revolutionary. We can’t wait to get it home."

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