While watching the 1999 film, a sharp-eyed viewer spotted a painting that had been missing for 90 years

By Drew Mackie
Updated December 01, 2014 04:30 PM
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Credit: Ferenc Isza/AFP/Getty

Stuart Little taught us so much: to celebrate diversity, that love overcomes differences, and that mice look adorable when riding tiny motorcycles.

But who knew the 1999 film would help find a long-lost painting?

While watching the film with his daughter, Lola, in 2009, sharp-eyed Hungarian art historian Gergely Barki recognized a painting that appears in the background of a scene featuring stars Hugh Laurie, Geena Davis and Jonathan Lipnicki. It was Rébert Berény’s Sleeping Lady with Black Vase, which had been missing since 1928.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Berény’s long-lost masterpiece on the wall behind Hugh Laurie. I nearly dropped Lola from my lap,” Barki told Agence France Presse. “A researcher can never take his eyes off the job, even when watching Christmas movies at home.”

Barki immediately contacted the film’s creators. Two years later, the set decorator replied, explaining that she’d bought it for $500 at a Pasadena antique shop. The painting was hanging on her wall.

Sleeping Lady with Black Vase has since returned to its native Hungary, where it will be auctioned off on Dec. 13. It’s expect to nab anywhere from $240,000 to $325,000.

Even with all the lessons Stuart Little taught us about how size and scale don’t matter, that’s a considerably greater price tag than $500, isn’t it?