Gergely Barki, a researcher at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest, thought the 20th century Hungarian painting Sleeping Lady with Black Vase by Robert Bereny, last seen in public in 1928, was lost forever – and then he watched the movie Stuart Little.
“A researcher can never take his eyes off the job, even when watching Christmas movies at home,” Barki said.
As Barki watched the decade-old movie with his daughter on Christmas Day in 2009 he thought she was imagining things: “I could not believe my eyes when I saw Bereny’s long-lost masterpiece on the wall behind Hugh Laurie." But, Barki added, “It was not just on screen for one second but in several scenes of the film, so I knew I was not dreaming."
In the movie, the famous painting can be seen hanging over the fireplace behind the fictional Little family as they pose for a family portrait in their New York City apartment.
That's when Barki said she began writing emails to everyone involved with the film. She eventually was able to track down a set designer who purchased the prop for $500 at an antique shop in Pasadena, California, having no idea of its significance.
The set designer then sold the portrait to an art collector. The famous painting will go to auction December 13 in Budapest with a starting price of $110,000.
So how did Bereny's masterpiece end up in California all the way from Hungary? Barki said it's likely the original owner was a Jew who fled the European country before or during World War II. Either way, Barki said he expects his discovery to prove helpful as he writes a book on the artist, Robert Bereny.
“It means that I can make a more complete publication of [Bereny’s] oeuvre catalog,” Barki said.
(H/T: New York Post)
Follow Jon Street (@JonStreet) on Twitter