|By Mary Carole McCauley, The Baltimore Sun|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The complaint filed in
Such a document is frequently filed by a third party -- in this case, the U.S. government -- that is holding property whose ownership is in dispute. The complaint is asking U.S. District Judge
Those seeking to acquire the painting include the
Other parties include the
Ascher, however, said Friday that she was not interested in pursuing ownership.
"I only got the things that the museum didn't want, and they want this painting," she says. "As far as I'm concerned, it's a closed chapter."
Fuqua, who had previously been identified only as "Renoir Girl," could not be reached Friday afternoon, but her attorney,
For her part,
"This is a fascinating and riveting story, but it's for the courts to decide," Bolger says. "I'm sure that, like me, everyone is looking forward to having this resolved."
It's entirely possible, however, that answers won't come quickly. Supporting documents filed with the claim indicate that the ownership question might be even murkier than was previously believed.
Since Fireman's Fund paid out a
But because insurance companies aren't in the business of owning works of art, most policies issued to museums include a provision for the recovery of stolen paintings, sculptures and ceramics. These clauses generally stipulate the price that the most recent owner -- the
Unfortunately, those 61-year-old records can't be located. The insurance company has records of 27 policies that it issued to the
"A copy of the museum's insurance policy cannot be found," the complaint says, "and it is unknown if a provision for the recovery of stolen art was included in said policy."
Adding to the intrigue is that the Renoir was recently appraised as having a fair-market value of just
In his appraisal dated
His examination lends credence to a story that the view of the river Seine was dashed off on the spot by the artist for his mistress.
"The quick and loose brush strokes painted without definition or resolution give weight to this theory," he says. "Artists often produced these 'souvenirs' of a specific time and place with ready materials at hand."
But Cooper also quotes art expert
This is particularly true, the appraiser writes, for paintings marred by the "cloud of uncertainty" stemming from the 1951 theft.
Until these matters can be cleared up, Cooper concludes, "the value of this painting is negatively impacted."
But one woman wants the painting whether it's valued at
In a seven-page attachment filed with the complaint, the
"I am not an art historian, collector, appraiser or dealer. ... For two years, I stored the Renoir painting in a white garbage bag which I kept in various places in my house, my garage and my car. I consulted the
In an interview before the theft was discovered, Fuqua talked about her own financial struggles and what a discovery of that magnitude would mean to her, saying that she had only recently regained financial stability after a two-year bout with joblessness.
"I've got my feet back on the ground now," she said at the time. "But a few years ago, I lost my job. I was down there standing in line for food stamps and to collect unemployment."
Fuqua seems to have bounced around the employment market for several years, trying first this career and that in an effort to make ends meet. Fuqua taught at
Three days after she was laid off, Fuqua filed for Chapter 7 (or liquidation) bankruptcy in
Some of her financial problems may have stemmed from the failure of a driving school she ran, according to the bankruptcy documents.
Seven months after filing for bankruptcy, Fuqua found a job as a card dealer at a
"My knees are going to be knocking. My hands are probably going to be shaking, and my mouth is going to be dry," she told
After her flea market find was authenticated and before it was learned that the painting had been stolen 61 years before, Fuqua was interviewed by newspapers and radio stations worldwide. She seemed stunned by her good fortune, if a bit incredulous.
"I don't usually have this kind of luck," she said.
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