There’s a $350k Painting in “Stuart Little” That Was in Plain Sight But No One Even Noticed It

Robin Williams’ character “Mrs. Doubtfire ”described Stuart Little as the greatest character in all of literature. Well, in 1999 movie-goers were blessed with a live-action version appropriately titled “Stuart Little”.

The film played Hugh Laurie, Geena Davis, and Michael J. Fox, but most people never realized that the hanging in the background was a $ 350,000 painting until someone pointed it out many years later.

Miracles happen all the time


They say miracles happen, but how many times can someone experience one in their life? Maybe once or twice if you’re lucky? Well, it turns out, miracles can happen. But if we’re not careful, we may miss them. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with a father.

Art historian noticed that something was wrong

János Bődey

Gergely Barki, researcher and art historian at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest, was used to seeing expensive works of art hanging on the walls of art galleries. But he never expected to find a painting worth $ 350,000 in a children’s film.

He looked forward to spending time with his daughter


It was 2009 and the night before Christmas. Barki had been looking forward to this moment all day. As an art historian, he often found it difficult to gain time for his family. This was especially difficult for his relationship with his daughter Lola. But now he had a chance to make it up to him.

“Stuart Little” was a classic

Columbia pictures

He sat down next to his daughter in the living room to watch the 1999 live-action film “Stuart Little”. Sure, it was a decade back then, but some classic movies are like wine and only get better as you age. But he had no idea that his life would change because of the movie he wanted to see with his daughter.

You had a great time


His daughter Lola was sitting on his lap preparing for what was sure to be a great experience with her father, and she was right. The movie had them in the stings because it was so cute and funny. But suddenly Barki stopped giggling and his daughter didn’t know why.

Barki was in a trance


She knew she had done nothing wrong, and yet her father seemed to be in a trance when she looked up at him. She wondered if she should ask him if everything was okay, but she found that this is how adults responded to children’s films and enjoyed the film again. But she didn’t know that her father’s mind was captivated by something he saw in the movie.

A scene in the film left him speechless

Columbia pictures

There was a scene in the film where Stuart, who was a mouse, and his people were chatting right in front of the fireplace. But Barki could have cared less about the conversation they were having. In fact, he was more interested in a specific object in the background.

He recognized the painting

Columbia pictures

Barki noticed a painting hanging over the fireplace in the scene and recognized it immediately. This wasn’t a simple prop or painting the set designers bought at a flea market. It was something much more valuable.

It was a vacation miracle


“I almost dropped Lola from my lap,” Barki was quoted as saying. “It was like a Christmas miracle for me. It seems almost impossible to find a painting that is hidden in a Hollywood movie. “But why was it so important to him?

It was a lost masterpiece

Ference Isza

Barki realized that the painting was a long-lost Hungarian painting that had apparently disappeared in 1928. It was painted by the artist Róbert Berény and was called “Sleeping Lady with a Black Vase”. But who was Berény?

Berény was a member of “The Eight”


Berény was part of a pioneering team of artists called “The Eight” that revolutionized the Hungarian art movement in 1909. This made him an important historical figure in Hungarian art. But not everyone jumped for joy at this prolific artist.

He had to leave Hungary


In 1920 Berény designed a series of recruiting posters for a communist revolutionary movement. Unfortunately the movement failed, which forced him to flee Hungary that same year. But years later he painted a portrait that would disappear without a trace.

“Sleeping Lady with a Black Vase”

János Bődey

In 1926 Berény painted a portrait of his second wife and called it “Sleeping Lady with a Black Vase”. But one day the masterpiece disappeared. When Barki saw what really seemed to be in the movie, he gasped and felt his heart leap with excitement.

He knew he wasn’t dreaming

János Bődey /

Barki had only seen a black and white photo of the painting in the 1928 exhibition catalog. When he saw it on TV, he knew it was real. “It wasn’t just on screen for a second, but in several scenes in the film, so I knew I wasn’t dreaming,” he was quoted as saying. Finding the painting would prove difficult, however.

He contacted the Movie Studios

János Bődey /

The first thing Barki did was email Sony and Columbia Pictures, who had produced the film. Unfortunately, the executive producers didn’t know what happened to the painting after production was completed. So his next step was clear.

He reached out to the cast and crew


He decided to email all of the cast and crew associated with the film, but no one could help him. Two years passed and all hope seemed lost. Then he received an email that upset him very much.

She bought it from an antique shop


The woman who contacted him was an assistant director who had been hired to find props for the film. To do this, she bought a painting at an antique store in Pasadena, California for $ 500. But what happened to the painting?

She took the painting home with her


After the end of production, the assistant director took the picture home with him. But that didn’t mean she still had it. And yet, surprisingly, she did. “It hung on her bedroom wall in Washington,” Barki was quoted as saying. But it was a year before he had the opportunity to see the painting in person.

He had to see it after all


“Within a year, I had the opportunity to visit her, see the painting and tell her all about the painter. She was very surprised, ”he said. The big question, however, was how in the world did the painting travel from Hungary to California.

The previous owner of the painting reached out


When the story about the painting hit the headlines, previous owner Michael Hempstead stated he bought the painting at the St. Vincent de Paul charity auction in San Diego, California in the 1990s. And he paid less for it than the assistant director.

He only paid $ 40 for it


“I think I only paid $ 40,” Hempstead was quoted as saying. “Somebody had just donated it, probably with lots of other items.” He knew it was one of Berény’s masterpieces, but didn’t know it was considered lost. So he sold it at an antique store in Pasadena for about $ 400, which is where the assistant set designer eventually bought it.

The Jews could have misplaced it

AFP / Ferenc Isza

Barki assumed the painting was originally purchased during the 1928 exhibition. “It was last on display at the time, and since most of the buyers were Jews, it probably left the country as a result of the war,” he suggested. “After the wars, revolutions and turmoil of the 20th century, many Hungarian masterpieces that are scattered all over the world are lost.” But how it traveled from Hungary to California will likely remain a mystery.

The painting was put up for auction

AFP / Yonhap

The assistant set designer eventually sold the painting to an art collector. On December 13, 2014, the painting was sent to a Budapest gallery for auction. But how much did the $ 350,000 painting sell for?

Barki did not go to the auction


The “Sleeping Lady with a Black Vase” was auctioned for a whopping USD 285,700 to a Hungarian buyer, whose name was not disclosed. But ironically, Barki did not bid on it and did not participate in the auction. Nevertheless, he had made an important contribution to Hungarian art.

He was proud to have discovered the painting

János Bődey /

“It was an amazing once in a lifetime experience to discover the painting. That was the exciting part, ”he was quoted as saying. But he also said: “A researcher can never take his eyes off work, even when he is watching Christmas movies at home.”

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