Lost art masterpiece spotted in film


A painting has returned to Hungary after nine decades because it was spotted being used in Hollywood film ‘Stuart Little’.

A sharp-eyed art researcher at Hungary’s National Gallery noticed the painting, Sleeping Lady with Black Vase by Robert Bereny, in the 1999 children’s movie while watching it with his daughter, Lola.

Gergely Barki, 43, said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Bereny’s long-lost masterpiece on the wall behind Hugh Laurie, I nearly dropped Lola from my lap.

“A researcher can never take his eyes off the job, even when watching Christmas movies at home.”

The painting vanished in the 1920s but Mr Barki said he recognised it immediately, despite only ever seeing a faded, black-and-white photo of the work dating from a 1928 exhibition archived in the National Gallery.

Mr Barki said the buyer of the artwork at the exhibition was possibly Jewish and was likely to have left Hungary in the run-up to, or during, the Second World War.

He said: “After the wars, revolutions, and tumult of the 20th century, many Hungarian masterpieces are lost, scattered around the world.”

Having spotted the painting, he sent emails to staff at Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures, notifying them of the discovery in 2009.

But it wasn’t until two years later that he received a reply from the set designer on the film who told him “the picture was hanging on her wall.

“She had snapped it up for next-to-nothing in an antiques shop in Pasadena, California, thinking its avant-garde elegance was perfect for Stuart Little’s living room.”

The set designer sold the painting to a private collector, who has now taken it back to Budapest for auction.

Mr Bereny fled to Berlin in 1920 after designing recruitment posters for Hungary’s short-lived communist revolution in 1919.

The painting is up for sale at the Virag Judit auction house on December 13 with a starting price of around 110,000 euros.

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