It's an amazing story that begins at a flea market in West Virginia where a woman bought a cardboard box of stuff. She paid just $7.
The woman asked not to be identified, but she sort of liked the frame on a painting at the bottom of the cardboard box, way down underneath a doll. For two years, the painting drifted around.
"It was in my shed. It was in the trunk of my car. It was in a spare bedroom," she says.
After two years, she had some free time and discovered it was stuck in the frame. Her mom suggested she get someone to look at it before she tore it apart.
In late July, she brought it to the Potomack Company auction house in Old Town Alexandria. When the woman arrived at the Potomack Company, she was carrying the painting in a white plastic garbage bag with a red drawstring. It's just like what you would use in your kitchen.
"She opens up the bag and this little jewel comes out. And it really is a jewel," says Anne Craner, Director of Fine Arts at Potomack.
The name is right there on it, but who would have believed it was the work of Pierre-Auguste Renoir? Craner began to believe when she looked at the brush strokes.
"Here's a full brush stroke," explains Craner. "Here are little flecks. Here's the side of the brush."
Renoir is one of the world's greatest impressionists. The stock numbers on the painting matched up. It's not clear how it got to the flea market, but it's called "Landscape on the Banks of the Seine River." It was probably painted in 1879.
"I just couldn't believe it," said the buyer, who feels lucky. "Shock. I'm still in shock. I can't believe it."
Just how lucky? We will see when it's auctioned off on September 29. It's likely to bring about $100,000.
The anonymous owner says she hopes to do some home repairs. Maybe a new kitchen floor.
And her mom has always wanted to go to France. She thinks maybe they will visit Renoir's grave.
As she puts it: "I figured I should at least buy the man some flowers."
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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