Picasso and the 40 thieves

2021: headboard

In Athens, June 29.

Seven minutes was enough for a 49-year-old mason to steal, in 2012, from the National Gallery of Athens, Picasso’s painting. Head of a Woman. After setting off the museum’s alarm several times during the day, with the achieved goal of driving the guards mad enough to shut down the security system, he simply jumped over a balcony to steal the work. The painter offered it to the Greek people in 1949, as a tribute to their resistance to the Nazi invader. On June 29, 2021, the police finally arrested the thief, a “Fervent art lover”, as he likes to describe himself. The painting was found, surrounded by bubble wrap, in the bed of a dry river, a few kilometers from the museum …

Read also Ten years after their flight, a Picasso and a Mondrian found in a forest in Greece

2019: Dora the Explorer

In Paris, August 7, 2007.

The Portrait of Dora Maar, also called Bust of a woman (Dora Maar), estimated at 25 million euros, was stolen in 1999 from a Saudi sheikh on his yacht moored in the port of Antibes, on the French Riviera. A painting from 1937, which represents one of Picasso’s lovers. French investigators, for lack of progress, closed the case. It was counting without “the Indiana Jones of art”, the Dutchman Arthur Brand. In 2015, he learned that a Picasso had been used for years as a guarantee in drug trafficking and arms sales. He does not yet know that it is the Portrait of Dora Maar, but start to investigate. In March 2019, a businessman rings the bell at his house, a table under his arm. He says he received the portrait as part of a transaction, unaware of its stolen origin. The painting is now exhibited in Paris, at the Picasso Museum.

2014: Christmas miracle

At the French Embassy, ​​Washington, August 13, 2015.

The Center Pompidou declares the theft of the painting in 2001 The hairdresser. Claimed for a loan, the museum then noticed the disappearance of the work while its last appearance dates back three years, during an exhibition in Munich … It was not until 2014 that American customs officers in New Jersey intercepted the packaged table. Accompanied by the words “Merry Christmas”, the package is declared as a craft gift worth 30 euros. It was posted from Belgium, bound for a warehouse in Queens. The declared price, much lower than the cost of sending the package, and the destination of the object have caught the attention of customs officials. If the painting painted by Pablo Picasso in 1911 has found its place in the museum, the mystery surrounding this theft remains intact.

2007: three small tours

Arthur Brand, in Amsterdam, April 15, 2019.

While Pablo Picasso’s granddaughter sleeps peacefully in her mansion at 7e district in Paris, burglars steal three of his ancestor’s works in the next room. A portrait of Jacqueline Roque, the painter’s second wife, Maya with the doll, a canvas representing his daughter and a drawing entitled Marie-Thérèse at 21. A daring theft, without a trace of break-in. The burglars even took the time to cut out the portrait, which was too large. Six months later, police officers from the Central Office for Combating Trafficking in Cultural Property found the property in the trunk of a car and arrested three men. It would not be thieves, who are still running, but dealers.

1976: robbery at the palace

In Marseille, September 10, 1976. From left to right: Maya Widmaier-Picasso, Paloma Picasso, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, Christine Ruiz-Picasso and Claude Picasso identify the stolen and recovered canvases.

Faces concealed and pistols pointed, three men enter the Palais des Papes in Avignon and steal 119 works by Picasso, including The Ladies of Avignon. One of the authors of the heist of the century, Didier Caulier, officially a nightclub manager, recounts a few years later in a book: “As usual, it was easy: we climbed on a scaffolding to enter the Palace and access the masterpieces! There were only three guards to protect them! “ If the latter was never arrested, some of his accomplices fell into an ambush a few months later, in Marseille. Police officers simulated the repurchase of the works of art and all the paintings were found.