Stolen Renoir painting ordered released to the BMA

A federal court judge signed an order Tuesday clearing the way for a stolen landscape painted by Pierre-Auguste Renoir to be speedily returned to the Baltimore Museum of Art, 62 years after the painting was stolen.

U.S. District Court Leonie M. Brinkema ordered the unsigned 1879 painting on a linen napkin, "Paysage Bords de Seine" to "be released into the custody" of the museum.

Arrangements for handing over the artwork still are being firmed up, according to spokeswomen for both the FBI and the museum.

The 5.5" x 9" view of the River Seine has been temporarily stored in an FBI warehouse in Manassas, Va., until the ownership dispute between the museum and the 51-year-old Marcia "Martha" Fuqua could be resolved. During a court hearing Friday, Brinkema granted the museum's motion for a summary judgment and dismissed Fuqua's claim.

The judge elaborated on her ruling in a written memorandum filed Tuesday. The 18-page document echoes statements that the judge made in court, namely, that the museum had presented "overwhelming" evidence that the painting had been stolen between 6 p.m. Nov. 16 and 1 p.m. 17, 1951.

Fuqua, who has said she bought the painting at a flea market in a box of odds and ends costing $7, has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the ruling.

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com