Woman pays $7 for Renoir worth $100,000 at flea market

9:48 PM, Sep 11, 2012   |    comments
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By Richard Reeve

Alexandria, VA (WJLA/CNN) - From trash to treasure: it's the dream of anyone who digs for finds at flea markets.

The dream came true for one woman, who forked out a tiny amount for something that turned out to be worth a fortune.

It was no ordinary painting.

"A Paysages au Borde de la Seine, which means a landscape on the banks of the River Seine," said the unidentified owner.

It's an 1879 Renoir, a masterpiece. It was discovered two years ago in a West Virginia flea market.

"I have no appetite. I have butterflies in my stomach. So, today is the day when it finally hit me," said the owner.

The woman who found the painting spoke with WJLA-TV by phone, and wanted to remain anonymous. She says she bid for a box of items that included the work of art.

"I noticed the frame on this picture and I liked the frame. I bid $7 and I won the box," she said.

"She first puts it in her shed, luckily in a plastic bag and then moves it to her kitchen, and then in the back of her car," said Anne Craner, a fine arts specialist.

One year later the woman was about to take the painting out of the frame when her mother spotted the name "Renoir" on the edging, the French gallery label, and a stock number.

"Her mom suggests that it would be a good idea to bring it to somebody who needs to verify," said Craner.

Experts at the Potomac Company Auction House authenticated the piece after the woman brought it by in late August.

The painting could fetch between $75,000 and $100,000 at auction, but the notion of this kind of discovery, a Renoir masterpiece in a West Virginia flea market, has the art world talking.

The auction house is getting calls from all over the world, because the painting was last heard about in 1926.

"It is really a needle in a haystack. Just unbelievable," said Elizabeth Wainstein, an auctionhouse owner.

And the anonymous finder?

"I'm living proof you don't know what could be in a box. You know, one man's trash is another man's treasure," she said.

The painting will be up for public auction on September 29.

The woman who bought the painting told the Huffington Post she's going to take the proceeds from the sale of the Renoir and go on a trip to Paris.



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