A $7 Flea Market Find Worth $100,000!

Pierre-Augusta Renoir painting found in a dumpster
Image courtesy of The History Blog

What one woman nearly tossed into the garbage may turn out to be a lost painting by Pierre-Augusta Renoir valued at up to $100,000. The painting was sold as part of a small lot at a Virginia flea market to an un-named woman who bought it because she liked the Paul Bunyon doll and plastic cow included in the small box of “junk”. I’d say it was $7 well spent!

After collecting dust in the garage for more than a year, the woman nearly tossed the painting in the trash but her mother advised she get the painting checked out first. Moms always know best. She took it to Potomack Co. auction house where Anne Norton Craner inspected the painting’s authenticity.

Craner told the Huffington Post that it looked like “the real thing.” To be absolutely sure, she referenced an official Renoir resource catalog and sure enough, the work of art turned out to be Renoir’s Paysage Bords de Seine. She valued the painting at $75k to $100k.

BROWSE: Dumpsters for rent in Virginia

The painting is scheduled to be auctioned off on Sept. 29. After verifying the painting’s authenticity, it was sent to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. for further investigation. It found that the painting’s frame is most likely from the 1920s, but the painting is indeed an original.

Not much is known about how the painting made its way from Seine, France to a small flea market in Virginia. The last documented sale of the painting was in 1925

UPDATE (2013): The auction to sell the painting was put on hold after documents uncovered by the Washington Post proved the painting was stolen from the Baltimore Musueum in 1951. The FBI seized the painting and its fate is currently in limbo. This just adds to the painting's mystique and most likely its value, as well. (Via: ABC News)

This sort of “dumpster find” is pretty unusual, as you might imagine, although it does occur from time to time. We covered a story back in May about a woman who found a painting on a Manhattan curbside waiting to be picked up by the local trash hauler. Turns out the painting was a Rufino Tamayo piece called Tres Personageswhich later sold for $1 million at auction!

Tres Personages-Rufino Tamayo"Tres Personages" by Rufino Tamayo

These kinds of stories remind us that you can find a diamond in the rough if you have a good eye or are just plain old lucky. I wonder how many other famous works of art are floating around in our municipal waste system. Hmmm…I’m suddenly motivated to do a little dumpster diving today!