Stolen Renoir painting must be returned to Baltimore museum

(WJLA) - The tiny Renoir painting of the shore of the Seine is 134 years old, and will finally return to the Baltimore Museum of Art – which has long claimed that the piece was stolen right off a gallery wall back in 1951.

"The law in Virginia says you cannot take good title from a thief, even if you are a bona fide purchaser," explains Marla Diaz, attorney for the museum

Martha Fuqua of Lovettsville argued that she was the bona fide purchaser, buying the painting for $7 at a West Virginia flea market in 2009.

But on Friday, a federal judge dismissed the case and ordered the painting to be returned to the museum, because in her words, there’s not a scintilla of evidence to show that the Renoir wasn’t stolen.

Fuqua’s attorney left court without a word, but Fuqua’s brother and his girlfriend celebrated the ruling.

"I'm ecstatic because the truth has finally come out," says Matt Fuqua. "And it went back where it belonged."

Matt Fuqua believes his glamorous mother, Marcia Fouquet, received the painting as a gift in the 1950’s from one of her many suitors, as she was herself an artist and collector.

He remembers the Renoir in his mother’s Great Falls home, and believes his sister invented the flea market story and took it to this Alexandria Auction House for one reason:

"My sister loves money. That's about the bottom line."

The Fuquas are now entwined in a legal battle over their mother’s estate. Marcia died in September, but her son feels certain that had she known the Renoir was actually stolen, the museum would have gotten it back decades ago.

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