US museum awarded stolen $9 Renoir painting

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A Renoir painting that was allegedly picked up at a flea market for US$7 (S$9) was stolen from a museum more than 60 years ago and must be returned, a United States federal judge ruled.

Eastern District of Virginia Judge Leonie Brinkema awarded ownership of the disputed 1879 oil painting on linen to the museum in Baltimore, ruling it had been stolen from there in November 1951.

"The Baltimore Museum of Art is pleased that the US District Court of the Eastern District of Virginia has awarded ownership of the stolen Renoir painting, 'On the Shore of the Seine,' to the museum," it said in a statement following Friday's ruling.

"We look forward to celebrating the painting's homecoming with a special installation in the galleries in late March."

The judge rejected the ownership claims of Marcia "Martha" Fuqua, said court documents which put the market value of the postcard-sized painting at US$22,000.

Ms Fuqua said she bought the painting at a West Virginia flea market for US$7 in 2009.

The masterpiece by the French Impressionist was seized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in October 2012 from an art auction gallery.

Ms Fuqua, who came to be known as "Renoir Girl" in US media, had reportedly hoped to auction off the unsigned painting for as much as US$100,000.

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