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Missing Painting Found On Set Of 'Stuart Little'

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Sometimes it's a tiny detail in a movie that really jumps out at you. Well, that's what happened six years ago when a Hungarian art historian was watching a movie with one of his children around Christmas time.

(SOUNDBITE OF "STUART LITTLE" AD)

UNIDENTIFIED NARRATOR: This holiday season, you're invited to meet the newest member of the Little family.

HUGH LAURIE: (As Fredrick Little) Attention, everybody.

GEENA DAVIS: (As Eleanor Little) This is Stuart.

MICHAEL J FOX: (As Stuart Little) Hello.

BLOCK: 1999's "Stuart Little." So there's the art historian, Gergely Barki, on his couch in Budapest when he notices a painting in the movie.

GERGELY BARKI: It's the painting, which I have known from a black-and-white photograph, by a Hungarian painter called Robert Bereny.

BLOCK: The painting had been missing since 1928. It's called "Sleeping Lady With Black Vase."

BARKI: It was like a miracle of Christmas for me. It seems almost impossible to find a painting in hiding in Hollywood movie. It's really surreal.

BLOCK: The painter, Robert Bereny, was a renowned Hungarian avant-garde artist.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Next was figuring out how "Sleeping Lady With Black Vase" wound up in a Hollywood film.

BARKI: So sent an email to Columbia Pictures, Sony Pictures, and they answered me immediately that they remember the painting, but they didn't find it.

CORNISH: Barki was undeterred. He sent emails to as many "Stuart Little" crew members as he could.

BLOCK: He received many polite replies, but no clues, until one day...

BARKI: Finally, about a month later or so, I received an email from the assistant set designer and she answered it - hi, Gergely, the painting is with me in my home. Whenever you come to the U.S., you are more than welcome to see the painting in real.

BLOCK: The assistant set designer wants to remain anonymous. She told Barki she bought the painting in a Pasadena, California, antique shop for $500.

CORNISH: And as with most Hollywood endings, this one too is happy. The painting is back in Hungary and will be up for auction later this month, with a starting price of more than a hundred thousand dollars.

BLOCK: And it's all due to a little talking mouse.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STUART LITTLE")

FOX: (As Stuart Little) This is the happiest moment of my life. I feel 10 inches tall. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.