A tiny landscape by Impressionist master Pierre-Auguste Renoir was returned to the Baltimore Museum of Art Friday afternoon – more than 62 years after the artwork mysteriously disappeared while it was on exhibition.
FBI investigators drove to the museum on North Charles Street to personally hand over "Paysage Bords de Seine," museum spokeswoman Anne Mannix Brown said. The 1879 painting, which had been held for the past 16 months in a northern Virginia warehouse for safekeeping, immediately was whisked off to the conservation lab so that it can be examined for any necessary cleaning, stabilization measures, or repairs.
"Paysage" will not be available to be viewed publicly, Brown said, until it goes on exhibit at the end of March.
According to a police report dated Nov. 17, 1951, the tiny landscape, just 8" x 11" in its ornate gold frame, was stolen from the museum while it was on display as part of an exhibit called "From Ingres to Gauguin."
The painting surfaced with in September, 2012, after a Virginia woman claimed to have bought the Renoir at a flea market a few years previously without knowing its real value. Earlier this month, a federal court judge rejected Marcia "Martha" Fuqua's ownership bid and awarded the painting instead to the museum.
Brown said she got a brief glimpse of Renoir's water scene before it was taken to the museum's conservation laboratory.
"It is a sweet painting," Brown said. "It was especially nice to see it up close, because digital images never capture the artist's brush strokes."
A FBI spokeswoman said Friday that the theft investigation is continuing.