Painting by Auguste Renoir stolen from small auction house near Paris

A thief walked into an auction house in Saint-Germain-en-Laye near Paris, took the painting off the wall and walked out without being seen. The work was due to be auctioned on Sunday.

Auguste Renoir's "Portrait d'une jeune fille blonde" or portrait of a young, blond girl was due to be sold at auction in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, west of Paris on Sunday with an estimate of between €25,000 to €30,000 ($29,000 to $35,000).

But on Saturday a thief walked in, took the 14-centimeter-by-2-centimeter (5-inch-by-4 inch) oil on canvas off the wall where it was on display and walked out of the building without being seen.

Yvelines departmental police are studying video security images as part of their search for the culprit.

The French artist, who lived from 1841–1919, was one of the first Impressionists and best known for portraiture, figurative work and his series showing people bathing.

One of the most famous Impressionist works is Renoir's 1876 "Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette," which became the property of the French Republic in 1894. It is held at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris.

A smaller version of the "Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette" is believed to be in Switzerland after being sold in 1990 in New York for $78 million. At the time it was one of the two highest-priced paintings at auction, the other being Vincent van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr. Gachet."

Born Pierre-Auguste Renoir, he was the father of actor Pierre Renoir (1885–1952), filmmaker Jean Renoir (1894–1979) and ceramic artist Claude Renoir (1901–1969). He was the grandfather of the filmmaker Claude Renoir (1913–1993), son of Pierre.

jm/kl (AFP, Lusa)

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