Here’s a headline you don’t read every day: Famous Lost Hungarian Painting Spotted as Set Design Prop in Hollywood Children’s Movie! And the best part is there is no sensationalism involved. Gergely Barki, a Hungarian art researcher, spotted the painting “Sleeping Lady with Black Vase,” by Robert Bereny (1887-1953) while watching the 1999 Sony Pictures film of the children’s book classic Stuart Little. Barki’s excellent eye and extensive knowledge of art served him well, as he had only seen the painting – which disappeared in 1923 – in a catalog of the Hungarian National Gallery. But there the painting was, on full view in a 10-year-old film that had seen by millions before Barki spotted it in 2009.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Bereny’s long-lost masterpiece on the wall behind Hugh Laurie, I nearly dropped Lola (his daughter) from my lap. A researcher can never take his eyes off the job, even when watching Christmas movies at home,” Mr. Barki said in an interview with England’s The Daily Mail. It took Mr. Barki a full two years before he was able to track down where the painting went after the film wrapped. He discovered that a set assistant had bought the painting from the studio, and it was hanging on the wall of her apartment. After learning this, Mr. Barki set about bringing it back to Hungary.
Hugh Laurie, who stars in the film, put a humorous twist on the discovery, tweeting that that he had been a “little hurt to discover the foreground performances couldn’t hold the attention, but still, what an honour”.
It is speculated that the painting was taken from the country by Jews fleeing pre-WWII Hungary. The painting was discovered in an antique shop in Pasadena by film set designer, who opted to use it wile decorating the living room of the home the animated mouse in Stuart Little lives in.
Last month the painting was sold for over 200,000 euro at an auction in Budapest, bought by a Hungarian private collector. So don’t look to see it in any more Hollywood films. That is, unless Stuart Little III is filmed here in Budapest.
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