Does Trump’s Fake Renoir Look Familiar? Maybe You’ve Played Parker Brothers’ ‘Masterpiece’

Did you once compete with Dietrich von Oberlitzer and other aristocrats for hallowed works of art?

Details from
Details from "Masterpiece" by Parker Brothers.

Donald Trump says that a painting he owns is a Renoir worth $10 million. Art historians say it’s counterfeit. The Art Institute of Chicago, meanwhile, is pretty sure it’s got the real one.

Might this all be a high-stakes game of Parker Brothers’s “Masterpiece” being played out on the world stage?

With Pierre-Auguste Renoir‘s 1881 masterpiece Two Sisters (On the Terrace) in the news due to its surprise appearance on the unconventional US president’s jet, some armchair art-lovers are surprised to recall a deep familiarity with the painting—not from the Art Institute’s renowned Impressionist galleries, but instead from its role in an old board game that was designed to simulate the glamorous world of the auction house.

“Masterpiece: The Art Auction Game,” introduced in 1970, features characters like Dietrich von Oberlitzer (“a rogue, but a shrewd and highly successful one”) and V. Elton Whitehall, Esq. (“once London’s top criminal lawyer”), vying for iconic works of art priced as high as $1 million, with at least one unlucky player trying to pawn off a forgery, according to one gamer site’s description. A commercial for the game even shows the Renoir being carried by an art handler. The treasures being shuttled around among the one-percenters of the day include works by Picasso, Degas, and Van Gogh.

Artwork Cards, including Renoir's Two Sisters (on the Terrace) (1881), from the Parker Brothers game © "Masterpiece," (c.1970). Image via wikimedia.

Artwork Cards, including Renoir’s Two Sisters (on the Terrace) (1881), from the Parker Brothers game © “Masterpiece,” (c.1970). Image via wikimedia.

Perhaps Trump even played the game. He was already in his early twenties, involved in managing his father’s housing developments, when “Masterpiece” came out. (He and his father, Fred Trump, would be sued for racial discrimination for allegedly refusing to rent to African-American tenants three years after the game was published. The suit was settled.) Perhaps the Trumps found diversion around the card table after dinner vying for the Renoir, and the young Donald Trump decided that he one day would have it to himself. Unlikely—Trump is famously unconcerned with art other than a status symbol or interior decoration, once rejecting a Warhol commission because the colors didn’t match his gilded lobby décor.

But, considering the painting’s fame—it’s been hanging in a world-class museum since it was donated in 1933, 12 years before the President’s birth, and even reproduced in a beloved board game—Trump’s claim to own the original seems more and more like hanging Van Gogh’s Starry Night on your wall and charging visitors to see it.

Watch the 1970 commercial below.


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