A federal grand jury in Baltimore indicted four persons yesterday in the theft and attempted illegal sale of a $350,000 Rubens painting recovered earlier this month in an Arlington motel room.

The indictment charges three men from Waldorf, Md., 25 miles south of Washington, and a fourth man from California with conspiring to sell the painting, taken last year from a Maryland collector, and illegally transporting it across the country.

Named in the indictment were David Nevin Raymond, 27, an unemployed tombstone engraver, David Howard Posey, 21, an arcade owner, and Robert Michael Mitchell, 22, a used-car salesman, all of Waldorf, and Gregory Wilson Hizer, 24, of Thousand Oaks, Calif.

The painting, one of about 400 oil sketches known to have been executed by the 17th century Flemish master, disappeared Dec. 24, 1980, from the Eastern Shore home of Arthur A. Houghton Jr., former president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

FBI agents recovered the painting Sept. 1 in an empty room at the Howard Johnson's motel in Crystal City after Houghton's insurer arranged for the painting's return.

The indictment accuses the Maryland men of foreknowledge of the painting's theft. It alleges that in January Raymond and Posey, in search of a buyer, took the sketch to California where Hizer stored it for several weeks. In August, Hizer allegedly called potential buyers in London and then, identifying himself as "John Rockefeller," called Houghton to negotiate a finder's fee.

Eventually, a New York insurance broker cooperating with the FBI arranged to receive the painting in exchange for a promised $60,000, which was to have been sent to the callers through a California lawyer. According to the indictment, Raymond and Hizer took the painting to the Howard Johnson's, where FBI agents found it in a suitcase.