An old painting that was dropped off at a rural Maryland Goodwill store this spring was pulled aside by sharp-eyed store employees for their manager Terri Tonelli to research.
Tonelli said she returned from a vacation in March to store employees asking her to look at a donated painting they suspected was valuable.
Tonelli agreed the picture of a rainy Paris street appeared genuine, not a print, and Googled the artist's name.
Tonelli discovered that Cortes was a notable French Impressionist whose work had sold at auction for prices near $60,000.
The painting was likely done in the early 20th century, when Cortes started Paris street scenes for which he's known.
"The hair on the back of my neck was standing up by then," exclaimed Tonelli.
Tonelli shipped the painting to a larger Goodwill office in Baltimore, which had it examined by local art experts.
The picture called "Marche aux fleurs" or "Flower Market"
by Edouard Leon Cortes, was left at the Goodwill in Easton, on
Maryland's Eastern Shore, sometime in March.
When artists determined the painting might be genuine, Goodwill managers then shipped it to Sotheby's auction house in New York, where the painting was cleaned and appraised.
After Sotheby's determined the painting was authentic, and had
not been reported stolen, the "Flower Market" picture was auctioned recently for $40,600.
The Goodwill will keep the profit for its charity work.
The donor is out of luck.
Even if someone came forward and could prove they donated the picture, Goodwill donations are considered legal and final transactions.