Monday, December 2, 2013

Battle Over Flea-market Renoir Tears Family Apart

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Martha Fuqua claims that in late 2009 she purchased a tiny Renoir painting at a garage sale for seven dollars.  This stroke of good luck has been followed by four years of misery.  First, Martha attempted to sell the Renoir through a D.C. auction house, which estimated that the  painting would bring in around $100,000.  Things quickly went south:

But days before the bidding began, the Baltimore Museum of Art found internal records showing that the impressionist landscape, painted on a 51 / 2-by-9-inch napkin, had been stolen while on exhibit in 1951. The revelation prompted the FBI to seize the piece and set the stage for a federal judge to determine who gets to keep it: [Martha] or the BMA.

Earlier this year, Martha unmasked herself in her effort to get the painting back. She pleaded in court papers that she deserves the painting because she is an “innocent owner,” as defined by federal law. She had no clue when she bought the Renoir in a box of junk, she said, that it might have been stolen and subject to seizure.

Now her sibling has turned on her.  Martha's brother, Matt, has "ccontradicted his sister’s timeline that she had bought the Renoir in late 2009 and stored it at her Loudoun home until mid-2012. Matt said he testified that the Renoir couldn’t have been only at his sister’s Loudoun home during those 21 / 2 years. His girlfriend Jamie Lynne Romantic, a Northern Virginia real estate agent, discovered the Renoir while cleaning out his mother’s Fairfax studio in late 2011, he said."

Recently, the sibling warfare has spiraled:

Martha was charged by Fairfax police last month with breaking into the apartment of her brother’s girlfriend. And Matt became the target of a lawsuit filed by his sister this month in Fairfax County court in an effort to evict him and his girlfriend from their mother’s property.

As with the famous Barry Bond's baseball, sometimes it's finders weepers.

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