Missing masterpiece found in ‘Stuart Little’ auctioned in Hungary

By Peter Murphy, AFP

BUDAPEST, Hungary — An avant-garde painting lost for nine decades until a Hungarian researcher spotted it being used as a prop in the Hollywood film ��Stuart Little�� was sold for over 200,000 euros Saturday at an auction in Budapest. The painting ��Sleeping Lady with Black Vase,�� by Robert Bereny (1887-1953), fetched a price of 229,500 euros (US$285,700), more than doubling its reserve price of around 110,000 euros. Staff at the Virag Judit auction house told AFP that the buyer was an unnamed private Hungarian collector, and that the sale price exceeded expectations. ��I always knew it was a masterpiece, now it seems the market agrees,�� said Gergely Barki, 43, the Hungarian National Gallery researcher who noticed the painting in the 1999 kids’ movie about a mouse as he watched TV with his daughter Lola on Christmas Eve six years ago. The work disappeared in the late-1920s but Barki recognized it immediately even though he had only ever seen a faded black-and-white photo dating from a 1928 exhibition catalogue archived in the National Gallery. Its unorthodox discovery even caught the attention of English actor Hugh Laurie, who co-starred in ��Stuart Little�� along with U.S. actress Geena Davis, and, of course, the eponymous mouse. ��Little hurt to discover the foreground performances couldn’t hold the attention, but still, what an honor,�� he tweeted last week about his role in the painting’s find. Barki opted not to go to the auction. ��It was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience to discover the painting, that was the exciting part,�� he told AFP.