About a year and a half ago, a Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, woman bought a box of miscellaneous items at a flea market for $7. A Paul Bunyan doll and plastic cow initially caught her eye, but what she later discovered inside the box was the real priceless find: an original Renoir oil painting.
On September 29th, the Potomack Company will auction off the 5.5-by-9-inch pastel-coloured painting, believed to be Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Paysage Bords de Seine," valued between $75,000 and $100,000, the New York Times reports.
The Los Angeles Times points out that while $100,000 for a Renoir "sounds like a bargain," considering that some of Renoir's works have sold at auction for more than $20 million, Renoir's smaller landscapes are relatively more affordable.
The last-known owner of the "Paysage Bords de Seine" painting was Herbert May, a Renoir collector who purchased the piece from the Bernheim-Jeune Gallery in Paris. No one knows how a painting from May's collection ended up at a flea market.
"You just see it and you know it's right," said Anne Norton Craner, Potomack's fine arts specialist. Craner told the New York Times that the painting's owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, brought the painting to Potomack in a large white plastic bag.
"She liked the look of the frame, and started tearing off the paper on the back, and her mum told her to stop," because it might be worth something, Craner said.
The painting's owner told the Huffington Post that she plans to treat her mother to a trip to the Louvre after the auction to thank her for convincing her to not tear it apart.
"I'm just glad I didn't sell it at one of my yard sales," she said.
"It does pay to listen to your mother," she added.