The unnamed bargain hunter picked up the painting, which was in a box of assorted junk, for just $7 (£4.30) and considered ditching the painting and keeping the elaborate gold frame – although the frame was clearly labelled ‘Renoir 1841–1919’.

Instead she took it to The Potomack Company Auctioneers in Alexandria, Virginia, a town on the outskirts of Washington DC, on the advice of her mother – “I actually listened to my mom for once,” said the fortunate buyer.

Anne Norton Craner, a fine arts expert, checked the painting and found French writing on the back of the canvas. She then checked a catalogue and found the serial numbers matched.

Craner is convinced the painting is not a counterfeit “It’s not a painting you would fake. If you’re going to fake something, you would fake something easier. It had Renoir’s colours, his brush stroke,” she explained, according to Reuters.

Paysage Bords de Seine (Banks of the River Seine) is estimated to have been painted in 1879. The small 15cm x 25cm painting is estimated to fetch around $75,000 – $100,000 when it goes to auction later this month.

The painting has not been seen publically since 1926, but it is believed to have been given to a model as a gift by Renoir himself and then sold on to the Paris based Bernheim-Jeune gallery.

The gallery in turn sold it on to an American lawyer by the name of Herbert L May who reportedly spent some time working in Washington DC.

The mystery woman plans to spend some of her windfall fortune on a trip to Paris for herself and her mother. Whilst there she plans to lay flowers at the grave of Renoir. “I just want to say thank you,” she told Reuters.

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